The US Court of Appeals of the DC Circuit voided two key provisions of the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that were issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in October 2005. A preliminary analysis of the decision by the League shows that the Court agreed to overturn the 11-hour limit on driver time per day and the 34-hour restart period. Both provisions were the subject of a petition by Public Citizen that sought the action taken by the Court. In view of the Court’s decision, truck driver’s maximum allowable driving time will revert back to 10 hours and the 34- hour restart will be abandoned.

The three-judge panel ruled that the FMCSA ‘failed to give interested parties an opportunity to comment on the methodology of the crash-risk model that the agency used to justify an increase in the maximum number of daily and weekly hours that truck drivers may drive and work.’ The Court stated that the FMCSA was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ in failing to explain much of its methodology. This Court’s rationale in rejecting these provisions was similar to a dismissal of an earlier version of the HOS regulations made in 2004.

In addition, the same court denied a petition filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asking that a split sleeper provision be eliminated or altered because it was inflexible and would lead to less driver safety.

Under judicial procedure, the FMCSA has 45 days to petition for reconsideration. After that time, and within seven additional days, the Court’s decision may go into effect.

This is the second ruling taken by the courts against the FMCSA since it initially tried to rewrite the HOS rules back in 2003. In July 2004 the new HOS regulations were completely vacated by the courts but congressional intervention in the form of an extension helped the FMCSA make modifications that were then reissued in 2005.

This decision will have far-reaching effects on the movement of freight.