The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

New Trucker Rules Overturned by Court

July 20, 2004

A federal court threw out new government rules extending the amount of time that commercial truckers can drive between breaks, according to an Associated Press report on July 16. The rules, issued in December, allowed truckers to stay on the road for up to 11 straight hours, one more hour than they had been allowed. But they also required drivers to take at least 10 hours off between shifts, two more than before. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wrote that the rules changes were “arbitrary and capricious.'' The three-judge panel said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that imposed the rules, failed to consider “drivers' health in the slightest,'' as required by law. The court, in a 3-0 ruling, was acting on a suit brought by Public Citizen and highway safety groups. The American Trucking Associations joined the FMCSA in arguing for the new rules. The government had argued that the new rules would make the roads safer because truckers would have to rest for two more hours between driving shifts. The Transportation Department estimated the change would reduce deaths resulting from truck driver fatigue from 440 to 335 a year. But safety groups and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said that allowing a trucker an extra hour behind the wheel would cause more accidents, not fewer. They pointed to studies showing that the risk of crashes rises geometrically after the 10th and 11th hour of driving. FMCSA spokesman Bill MacLeod said the agency was assessing the impact of the ruling. "We recognize that the rule is an important safety tool," MacLeod said.
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