The current hours of service (HOS) rules will be in effect for at least one year, thanks to the Surface Transportation Extension Act (H.R. 5183) being signed into night by President George W. Bush.
The “new” HOS will remain law until September 30, 2005 or when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacts a final rule that addresses the drivers’ health concerns raised by the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on July 16, 2004, whichever comes first.
“This is a common-sense legislative fix to a scary scenario that could have caused great damage to the national economy,” said Gov. Bill Graves, ATA president & CEO.
Though the sudden nature of the announcement makes it premature to assess the staying power of the rules, which were deemed “arbitrary and capricious” by the Court, Rich Clemente, Truckload Carrier Assn.’s director of safety, believes this law will stick. “It’s my understanding that the rule is gospel until September 30 (2005),” Clemente told DRIVERS. “I was, like a lot of people, pleasantly surprised when I heard this. I’ve known about the highway bill but I had no idea that HOS was a part of it as well.”
Public Citizen, an advocacy group that led the litigation against HOS, had no comment as press time. The Court is still expected to rule on FMCSA’s request to keep the rules in effect— a response the agency filed to the July 16 decision before the HOS “rider” on the highway bill bypassed the judicial process. Public Citizen opposed FMCSA’s request to keep the current rules in effect, claiming they are “much worse” than the old rules.
David Longo, FMCSA spokesperson, told DRIVERS, “Congress’s intent was to provide the agency, until September 30, 2005, time to revise the hours of service rules to work on the concerns voiced by the U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. What the FMCSA recognizes is the intent of Congress in H.R. 5183 to avoid widespread disruption in the enforcement of the rules.”
Longo underscored the agency’s belief that the current rules are safer than the “old” rules.
Longo declined to comment whether the Court’s ruling could have an impact on the rules until the September 30 deadline.
“We’re treading in murky waters since we’re dealing with judicial versus legislative actions,” said Bill MacLeod, FMCSA spokesperson. “However, when the Congress acts, the courts have to act as needed.”
However, the highway bill does represent a marked victory for the agency the trucking industry. “With this extension, we now have ample time for federal regulators to comply with the Court. To rush to judgment and go back to the old rule, as requested by trucking industry critics, would have immediately eliminated the critical safety benefits of the current rule,” said Gov. Bill Graves, American Trucking Assns. president & CEO.