D.C. Appellate Court Upholds DOT Driver Hours of Service Rules

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In 2019, the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) issued final regulations that changed requirements for commercial motor vehicle drivers’ rest and break times. The new rules said that if a driver was behind the wheel for eight hours in a 14-hour work window, they must take a 30-minute break from driving. However, the driver does not have to be relieved from all work duties during this 30-minute break and can perform other activities such as loading or unloading.

A group of highway safety advocacy groups and the Teamsters union sued DOT, alleging that the rules were arbitrary and capricious. Among other things, the plaintiffs claimed that DOT cherry-picked safety studies to justify the rules. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia rejected this reasoning, upholding the final DOT rules.

In its decision, the D.C. Circuit said that the agency had offered enough justification for the new hours of service requirements for them to survive judicial scrutiny. In addition, the court upheld new exemptions from recordkeeping and hours of service rules for short-haul drivers contained in the DOT rules. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses this decision, companies that operate commercial motor vehicles will continue to have somewhat increased flexibility regarding how they schedule driving and rest times.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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