U.S. Transportation Department regulations to ensure drivers get more rest were mostly upheld by a federal appeals court, a defeat for trucking companies that said the rules would add cost without improving highway safety.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in Washington today rejected most of the arguments made by the American Trucking Associations Inc. as “highly technical points best left to the agency.” The court vacated a 30-minute rest requirement for short-haul truck drivers.
“With one small exception, our decision today brings an end to much of the permanent warfare” surrounding the fatigue rule, U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown said in the decision.
The ruling caps 14 years of wrangling between the industry and regulators over drive-time restrictions that led to two previous challenges before the appellate court.
Longer rest breaks and reworked freight networks may reduce productivity by 3 percent, translating into $18 billion in additional costs, according to freight data and forecasting firm FTR Associates.
The final rule maintained an 11-hour limit on truckers’ driving day and a 34-hour rest period each week that would require drivers to be off two consecutive nights.
The trucking industry has been fighting the Transportation Department on the issue since Congress first mandated the regulation in 1999.
A 2003 rule allowing longer driving shifts was successfully challenged by consumer groups, which persuaded the court to send it back to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for reworking.
The case is American Trucking Associations Inc. v. FMCSA, 12-01092, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).
Editors: Fred Strasser, Stephen Farr