In the words of Alabama, “Roll on eighteen-wheeler, roll on” but be certain to heed the newly upheld hours-of-service regulations. The Court of Appeals’ recent decision in American Trucking Association Inc. v. FMCSA (find the full opinion here) “brings to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the [hours-of-service] rules” said Judge Brown, the author of the opinion. The decision upheld all but one provision of the HOS regulations that went into effect July 1, 2013.
Most notably, the court upheld a modification to the 34-hour restart regulation. The regulation now requires that the restart include two periods of overnight rest between 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and restricts its usage to once every seven days. The court also upheld the mandated rest break provision for drivers during the workday if the driver has been on duty for eight consecutive hours. The court, however, exempted short-haul drivers from this requirement. Consequently, the FMCSA is now tasked with defining exactly what qualifies as a “short-haul” operation and to whom this exemption will apply. Until then, the exemption is merely ordered by the court and not yet the rule of the road.
In short, all but one of the new HOS regulations remain unchanged and have the force of law. Short-haul drivers are now exempt from the 30-minute off-duty break requirement but exactly who qualifies as a “short-haul” driver is still unclear.