The American Trucking Association, Inc. (ATA) asserted that the new safety oriented provisions of the final Hours of Service (HOS) Rule were overly restrictive and costly. The Circuit Court undertook the analysis of the 2011 Final Rule, which resembled earlier Rules, and all essential aspects except for the addition of what was deemed “Safety-ANSI provisions” as follows:
- A 30 minute off-duty break, which prevents truckers from driving past 8 hours unless they have had an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes;
- A once per week restriction, which prevents commercial operators from abusing the 34 hour re-start i.e. the 2011 Final Rule permits commercial motor vehicles to invoke the provision only once every 168 hours or 7 days;
- A two-night requirement, which ensures commercial operators using the 34-hour re-start have an opportunity to get two nights of rest. The Final Rule mandated that the restart include two blocks of time from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Although calculation of the hours becomes a bit difficult, the 34-hour re-start with a one per week restriction essentially reduces the maximum number of hours a commercial driver spends driving or on duty for a 7 or 8 day period. The maximum driving hours per 7 days drops from 73.9 hours to 70 hours; a small, but not necessarily insignificant decrease.
The Circuit did find an exception for the 30 minute break requirement and carved out from that what could be called short haul drivers or regional drivers, who tend to work 5 days per week, 8 hours per day. These drivers were found by the investigation to rarely drive anything close to 11 hours on a given day, according to research conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Under 49 CFR §395.1(e)(2), short haul drivers who operate vehicles that do not require a CDL and who operate “within 150 air-mile radius of a location where the driver reports to and releases from work” have greater flexibility in scheduling and hence, the Court could qualify the short haul drivers as exempted from the various break requirements, and vacated the new Rules as far as short haul drivers are concerned. However, all other requirements of the new Hours of Service Rules are upheld. They must be strictly enforced to promote the safety of our highways and byways.