Wheels of Justice
Why the HOS changes?
In the hands of a true chef, a blender can produce some of the most remarkable flavors you can ever hope to experience. In the hands of a novice cook, you end up with brown stuff that is just a waste of time and product. Hopefully, we will now see if Annette Sandberg, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is a chef or just a cook.
On Aug. 19, FMCSA issued their new Final Rule to take effect Oct. 1. The new rule states: CMV drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus two consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty or any combination of the two. The new rule also adds a second short-haul driver exemption that allows local drivers not required to have a CDL—operating within a 150 air mile radius of their starting point—to drive after the 14th hour, but not after the 16th hour, two days per week. The 11-hour driving limit and the 60-in-seven or 70-in-eight weekly limit still apply to drivers using this exemption.
Annette Sandberg said the following during her announcement of the new rules: “We developed the new hours-of-service rule with the priority in mind of reducing fatigue-related truck crashes, most notably in the long-haul sector where truck driver fatigue is 18 times greater than that of the short-haul sector.”
Addressing the impact on shippers and the public, Ms. Sandberg said, “We developed this rule on the basis of safety first and foremost, but we try to never lose sight of the operational realities of our complex national transportation system. This hours-of-service rule provides an increased opportunity for drivers to obtain necessary rest and sleep, while also recognizing life’s realities by providing the flexibility to move products and operate safely.”
The question now is whether the court will allow this new rule to stand or whether the judges will review it and dictate from the bench just what they think the specifics of the new rule should be. Remember, as judges, they have the authority to set the rule to be anything they want, if they come to the conclusion that the FMCSA did not do a good job of reviewing the scientific information available for the health of the driver. This is where Ms. Sandberg will be put to the test. Did she indeed perform as a true chef with the skill to produce a fine soufflé, or will the court find her cooking bland and lacking any true flavor?
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.
Jim C. Klepper
Attorney at Law