Yesterday’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) final rule, which keeps current hours-of-service regulations in place even though the identical interim rule was struck down by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has met with strong opposition by a number of trucking organizations. Most hope that the Obama administration will readdress the regulation.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Public Citizen and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) brought suit against FMCSA last year to protest the rules as currently constructed, which includes the continuation of the 11th hour of driving and 34-hour restart provisions.

“The inability to ‘stop the clock’ really has a negative effect on drivers because there needs to be flexibility if a driver needs to rest,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vp, told FleetOwner. “The current system creates a real predicament for a driver on a schedule, as the rigidness of the regulation doesn’t allow this.”

Spencer said that the passage of the final rule was not unexpected, and while OOIDA certainly does not agree with FMCSA on the issue, they have to accept it, although he said bringing another suit was “an option on the table.”

OOIDA “certainly” will contact FMCSA after the new leadership goes into office on January 20th, Spencer added, although he doesn’t believe the issue will addressed early in the term, noting that he expects them to take a long look at on-board recorders as well.

Ray Haight, executive director of MacKinnon Transport, Inc. and chairman of Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) told FleetOwner he was not pleased that the sleeper berth consideration for team drivers--removed after a court case in 2005--was not restored. He added that the HOS regulation does not give drivers a high level of flexibility, noting that the differences in drivers’ sleeping patterns were not adequately addressed.

Haight said that circadian rhythm analysis has not been properly adapted to hours-of-service regulation, and that some drivers feel like they are not as safe with the current rules, even if the number of accidents is coming down. “Until science comes into the industry, we’re going to be at the whim of an outdated system,” he said. “It seems like FMCSA didn’t really consider the comments that were made.”

TCA has been invited to speak to President-elect Obama’s transition team about these issues in the next few weeks, Haight added, noting that they will prepare a white paper in advance of the meeting.

According to the Teamsters, the percentage of fatal crashes that result from driver fatigue increased 20% in 2005, the first year in which the 11th driving hour was allowed.

“We will continue to fight this dangerous midnight rule through the courts and through Congress,” said Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa. “We’re currently reviewing our legal options, especially since the court threw out this regulation twice….Letting tired truck drivers spend even more time behind the wheel is foolish and dangerous.”