Jerry Donaldson or
Friday, July 16, 2004
Henry Jasny at 202-408-1711
COURT RULES TRUCK DRIVER HEALTH
ESSENTIAL FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY
Appeals Court Strikes Down Hours of Service
Rule for Truck Drivers
16, 2004. In a unanimous decision, a 3-judge panel of the U.S.
Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., today struck down the government
hours of service (HOS) rule for truck drivers. Today's ruling
is an important victory for highway safety and the public because
the HOS rule - which limits the maximum hours of driving to ensure
safety - allowed truck drivers to spend many more hours behind
the wheel than under the previous rule, allowing drivers to become
even more fatigued, and posing a safety danger to other motorists.
decision came in a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen and a number
of safety organizations, in which Advocates for Highway and Auto
Safety (Advocates) and the Insurance Institute for Highway safety
filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs. The Court ruled for
the plaintiffs on all counts, vacating the entire rule that was
issued in April, 2003, and went into effect earlier this year.
its opinion, the Court first ruled that the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration (FMCSA) failed to consider the effect that
longer working and driving hours permitted by the rule would have
on the health and physical condition of truck drivers. The linchpin
of Advocates' brief was that the agency ignored its legal duty
to consider the impact of the HOS rule on the health and physical
condition of truck drivers. Advocates argued that Congress specifically
made the health of truck drivers a mandatory factor that had to
be taken into account. The court agreed with Advocates that the
agency's rule was arbitrary and capricious since it failed to
consider this fundamental statutory factor.
L. Stone, President of Advocates, stated that "The court's
action is a victory for protecting truck drivers from being forced
to operate very long hours without adequate sleep and rest. The
rule would undermine the health of truck drivers and degrade safety
on our nation's highways."
Court went on to criticize the FMCSA for its flawed rulemaking
on all the issues raised by the plaintiffs. It explicitly rejected
the agency's attempt to justify longer driving shifts and many
more cumulative hours of driving over a 7- or 8-day tour of duty.
It found the FMCSA's benefit-cost analysis to be dubious because
it attempted to "explain away" the fundamental issue
of how increased time spent working and driving under the rule
could be just as safe as fewer hours of work.
court also rejected the agency's resurrection of split sleeping
time for drivers who try to sleep in their trucks as unsupported
and irrational, especially in light of the agency's previous proposed
rule in 2000 arguing that solo drivers needed a single, uninterrupted
off-duty period each day to get sufficient opportunities for adequate
sleep and rest.
the court roundly criticized the FMCSA for having no good reason
for backing away from its previous proposal to require electronic
on-board recorders (EOBRs), and from evading its statutory duty
to evaluate seriously whether EOBRs should be required.
added, "This ruling reassures us that public health and safety
should always come first and must be the highest priority of government
HERE to view Federal Appeals Court's Decision
for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer,
health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working
together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at
the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of
crashes to families across the nation. More information about
the unfinished highway and auto safety agenda can be found on
Advocates' web site, www.saferoads.org.
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