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Hours of Service Expert Witness:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Hours of Service Case.

Evidence Solutions, Inc. - Truck Accident & Safety Expert Articles

By Scott Greene

A Department of Justice attorney representing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) told an appeals court on March 15, 2013 that industry objections to its latest changes to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truck drivers boil down to “simple scientific disputes”, and that the government should be free to use its discretion in such cases. The Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney also indicated that it is “not the court’s duty to weigh in on that kind of dispute”. He went on to tell the court that the agency acted reasonably when in December 2011 the agency wrote a regulation requiring drivers to take rest breaks after driving eight hours and limiting use of the 34-hour restart.

The case was heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit an attorney representing the American Trucking Association (ATA), accused the FMCSA of overestimating the societal benefits of the regulatory changes by misinterpreting scientific studies to justify HOS restrictions. The ATA claimed that if the data were used correctly, the agency’s cost-benefit analysis would have shown the rule to have a net cost and as a result, if the agency had used the data correctly the rules would not have been enacted.

ATA filed its lawsuit in February 2012, urging the court to overturn the 34-hour restart changes and requirement for a 30-minute break in which the driver is off duty. The rule included, in addition to the once-per-week restriction, the optional restart, which drivers can use to reset their weekly driving limits, must include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. under the rule, which is set to take effect July 1.

In the end, the ATA expressed hope that the three-judge panel would agree with its arguments. “The existing rules have a proven track record, and the agency’s purported reasons for tinkering with them were baseless,” Prasad Sharma, ATA’s general counsel, said in a statement. “We’re hopeful the judges will see through the agency’s mere pleas for deference and after-the-fact explanations for a rule that was agenda-driven rather than evidence-based.”

The group known as Public Citizen also spoke out, Public Citizen is pushing for a return to the 10-hour driving day with no 34-hour restart allowed, like it was before FMCSA added the 11-hour day and restart in 2003. Scott Nelson, Public Citizen’s attorney, accused the agency of “failing to fulfill its statutory obligation to improve safety” when it chose not to eliminate the 11th driving hour and the restart.

Link to the new rules.

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