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Federal Court Overturns Hours of Service Rules

    Client Alerts
  • July 26, 2007

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion that invalidated the 11 hour daily driving limit and the 34 hour "restart" rule contained in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). According to the American Trucking Association (ATA) website, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) and other parties have 45 days to ask the Court to reconsider its decision. The ATA has already indicated that it will seek a stay of the Court's Order.

However, if the Court's decision takes effect, any driver operating a commercial motor vehicle after the 10th hour of driving time will be committing an hours of service violation. Additionally, drivers will no longer be able to restart their 60/70 hour weekly "on-duty" clocks by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty.

The Court's decision will not have any impact on the 14 hour maximum daily "on-duty" time provision and the 2005 sleeper berth rule. Those rules will remain unchanged.

In overturning the 11 hour daily driving limit and the 34 hour "restart" rule, the Court determined that the FMCSA failed to give the public sufficient notice of its 2005 amendments to the regulations. The Court also explained that the FMCSA failed to provide an adequate explanation of the methodology behind the crash-risk model it used to support the 2005 amendments that justify the 11 hour rule and the 34 hour "restart" provision.

It is difficult to predict whether the FMCSA or the ATA will be successful in preventing the Court's decision from becoming law. If the decision takes effect, drivers will need to ensure that they do not exceed 10 hours daily driving time and the 60/70 hour weekly "on duty" limits.

Parker Poe's Trucking and Transportation attorneys will continue to monitor this important development and will provide appropriate updates to you. Our lawyers are available to discuss the impact of this decision on motor carriers and their drivers. Let us know if you have any questions.