January 29, 2008: In a brief order issued Jan. 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request that the court enforce its orders overturning parts of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's rule limiting the maximum hours that truck drivers may drive and work (Owner-Operator Ind. Drivers Ass'n v. FMCSA, D.C. Cir., No. 06-1035, order 1/23/08).
In a one-sentence per curiam order, the court denied requests that it act to order compliance with its rulings, saying the order was entered "without prejudice" to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association's right to petition for review of interim final rule that was issued by FMCSA Dec. 17, 2007 (241 DLR A-13, 12/17/07).
In a Jan. 24 statement, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said the court order allowed the continuation of a "dangerous rule" on driver hours.
The American Trucking Associations in a statement Jan. 24 said the order showed that the court did not view the rules as "inherently unsafe."
Order Issued in Lawsuits Over FMCSA Rules
In a July 24, 2007, decision, the appeals court had found that a portion of a 2005 rule issued by FMCSA that increased the daily driving limit from 10 to 11 hours and allowed drivers to restart the "clocks" limiting their weekly on-duty time whenever they took 34 consecutive hours off duty, was invalid because the agency failed to allow comment on a methodology used to justify the change and failed to explain critical parts of the methodology (142 DLR AA-1, 7/25/07).
The court rejected a drivers' group challenge to other portions of the rules, finding that the agency did not ignore safety concerns or act arbitrarily in setting a daily on-duty limit and rules for drivers using sleeper-berth trucks.
In September 2007, the appeals court denied requests for rehearing of the rulings, but in December, FMCSA reissued an interim final rule (72 Fed. Reg. 71247) that FMCSA Administrator John Hill said responded to the "procedural flaws" cited by the appeals court (238 DLR A-10, 12/12/07).
The interim final rule allows truckers to drive for up to 11 hours in a single workday and to restart their weekly on-duty clocks after they are off duty for 34 consecutive hours.
Teamsters, Management Group Split Over Rule
In the Teamsters' statement, the union said it had joined with Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group, and with Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, to ask the court to enforce its order and to strike the challenged rule on drivers' hours.
The union statement called the reissuance of the interim final rule "brazen defiance of the court" and "subservience to the trucking industry." Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said "[w]e will continue to fight this dangerous rule, though the court refused to intervene this time."
The ATA, a federation of trucking groups and state associations, said the court ruling "confirms ATA's view that the Court's prior concerns with the 11-hour daily drive-time limit and 34-hour restart provisions of the HOS rules were only procedural in nature and that the Court does not view those provisions as inherently unsafe."
Paul D. Cullen Jr., of Cullen Law Firm, represented the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Brian Wolfman, Scott L. Nelson, and Bonnie I. Robin-Vergeer represented Public Citizen Inc. Justice Department attorney Matthew M. Collette represented FMCSA.
Text of the order may be accessed at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=ldue-7bauhb.