Teamsters, others take on FMCSA over HOS

During the first of four “listening sessions” on the Driver Hours of Service (HOS) regulation held by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration earlier this week, LaMont Byrd, director of the Teamsters’ Health and Safety Department, reminded FMCSA that the union continues to oppose the new regulation, particularly the provision thath allows drivers to return to work after only 34 hours off duty. (See photos from the first "listening session"

“The agency issued a rule that favors increasing driver productivity and increasing the profits of motor carriers over driver health and safety,” Byrd said. “The current rules regarding hours of service, the 34-hour restart provision and the sleeper berth provision must be changed.”

The Teamsters, along with numerous other groups, have been fighting the new HOS regulation since it was first issued back in 2003, raising the number of hours truck drivers can spend behind the wheel from 10 to 11 consecutive hours each shift, and from 60 to 77 hours of driving each week, in addition to shortening the mandatory rest before restart provision.

Along with Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition , the Teamsters challenged the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In October, they agreed to put the lawsuit on hold in exchange for an agreement with FMCSA that it would revise the hours-of-service rule. “We negotiated language into our collective bargaining agreements that prohibits the use of restart, except in rare situations, and those runs are negotiated with the employer on a case-by-case basis,” Byrd noted.

The Teamsters are not the only ones agitating for action from FMCSA on the much-debated HOSe regulation. This week, the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking it to compel the Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue an hours-of-service supporting documents regulation. In the action, ATA is asking the court to require the agency to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) within 60 days of the court’s ruling and a final rule within six months of the NPRM publication date.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the Department of Transportation and the work they do, but we had to show the department just how important the supporting documents issue is to our industry,” said Gov. Bill Graves, ATA president & CEO. “We hope this lawsuit prompts a greater focus on the issue and that the department will be willing to work with us to get the regulation out within a reasonable time frame.”

In the meantime, potential hours-of-service violations continue to be a lightning rod for plaintiffs’ attorneys. On Christmas Day, for example, the Florida-based Flaxman Law Group took the opportunity to remind Florida motorists of the trucking HOS rules in a blog posting: “Hours-of-service regulations affect anyone. These rules affect how quickly products get to you when you order them and affect how much you pay for various products. More importantly, hours-of-service regulations ensure that the truck driver next to you on the road has had adequate rest and is less likely to cause an accident that threatens your life. All of us need to keep informed about hours-of-service rules and work to ensure that all truck companies adhere to these regulations.

“If you have been injured in a trucking accident and suspect that negligence may have played a role, contact a qualified Florida personal injury attorney immediately,” the post went on. “Even if you are not sure what has caused an accident, a Florida attorney can hire investigators to get the answers you need. A good Florida personal injury lawyer can advise you about your rights and can ensure that you get the full protection and assistance you are entitled to under the law.”

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