A recent press release from the Truck Safety Coalition highlights an hours of service case settlement that has resulted in the Obama administration agreeing to reexamine the rule that is supposed to keep drowsy truck drivers off the road. Here is the text of the press release:
ARLINGTON, VA (November 10, 2009) – The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have agreed to conduct a new round of rulemaking that could result in reducing the current unsafe hours of service rule for truck drivers issued by the Bush administration in 2003.
As a result of the October 26 settlement, the Truck Safety Coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, petitioned the court to hold in abeyance the lawsuit they filed against the FMCSA and their current hours of service rule. The FMCSA must begin a new rulemaking process and submit a notice of proposed rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget within nine months and publish a final rule within 21 months.
The Bush administration increased the number of daily and weekly hours truckers can drive from 10 to 11 consecutive hours per 14-hour shift and total weekly driving hours from 60 to 77 per driver every seven days (a more than 25 percent increase). The rule dramatically expanded driving and work hours by cutting the off-duty rest and recovery time at the end of the week from a full weekend of 50 or more hours off duty to as little as only 34 hours.
The groups have petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals a total of three times, most recently in March 2009. In 2004 , the court vacated the hours of service rule on the grounds that the government did not adequately consider the effects of longer driving hours on individual truck driver health and traffic safety, and in 2007 because the agency did not let the public examine and comment on the new crash risk analysis used by the agency to support reissuing the same exact rule.
Daphne Izer, who co-founded Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) in 1994 after a fatigued truck driver killed her 17-year-old son Jeff and his three close friends, was pleased with the settlement. "The good news is that there will be a new hours-of-service rule that hopefully will protect truck drivers and families like mine. This new rule must put people before profits."
Dawn King, whose father, William Badger, was killed on December 23, 2004 when a tractor trailer driver fell asleep behind the wheel and collided with his car, is currently a board member of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and a participant in the Truck Safety Coalition’s First Response program assisting fellow grieving truck crash victims. She added, "Fatigued drivers are a threat to the safety of everyone on the road. This settlement is a positive step forward and should lead to improved worker and safety regulations in the truck driving industry."
This is a huge step in the right direction. Let’s hope new rule scales back the allowable hours of service to a safer, more rationale number and that it is implemented quickly.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.