The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Assn. (OOIDA) has announced its intention to challenge FMCSA on two aspects of the new hours-of-service (HOS) rules in court.

The announcement was made after the agency denied OOIDA’s requests to retain the more-flexible sleeper berth provision in the 2003 rule for team drivers and to exclude the two-hour off-duty period from their calculations of the 14-hour on-duty clock for solo drivers.

To support a reversion to the old sleeper berth provision, OOIDA argued that team drivers prefer being able to switch drivers after shorter periods of time than those mandated under the new rule.

FMCSA said research does not support claims that short, but more frequent, rest periods are as effective as a single extended rest period.

To support its second request, OOIDA said exempting the two-hour portion of the split sleeper-berth provision for solo drivers would have a positive impact on safety. The group pointed out that under the current rule, there is no incentive for drivers to take breaks that cut into driving time.

FMCSA responded: “The two-hour break for sleeper-berth drivers in the 2005 rule is mandatory, so there is no question of incentives or disincentives.” The Agency also noted that OOIDA’s proposal would allow drivers a near-daily 16-hour period of on-time duty.

“From our perspective, it’s a common sense issue to gauge an awareness of the realities of trucking,” Todd Spencer, executive vp of OOIDA, told FleetOwner. “The courts will be looking for data and safety studies that are convincing and compelling. That’s the challenge because there isn’t going to be very much research been done specifically on sleeper berth applications. However, operational realities make it a little different animal to deal with.”

When contacted, FMCSA said that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

In a separate but related issue, FMCSA accepted ATA’s petition for a rulemaking to consider an amendment to the definition of “on-duty time” so that a driver who is part of a team operation could log a two-hour off-duty period while sitting in the passenger seat of the tractor, provided they also take eight consecutive hours of rest in the sleeper berth.