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Consumer, Safety and Labor Groups File Brief to Overturn Bush Administration Midnight Rule on Truck Driver Hours of Service

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Public Citizen
Truck Safety Coalition
International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Aug 28, 2009  

Consumer, Safety and Labor Groups File Brief to Overturn Bush Administration Midnight Rule on Truck Driver Hours of Service

Obama Administration Poised to Defend Unsafe, Anti-Worker Bush Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, the Truck Safety Coalition and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters late Thursday filed the initial legal brief in the third round of litigation seeking to overturn the longer truck driving and work hours the Bush administration imposed in 2003.

In the petition, the groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to overturn the hours-of-service rule issued Nov. 13, 2008.

The Bush hours-of-service rule increased the number of daily and weekly hours truckers can drive to 11 consecutive hours (instead of 10) each shift, and up to 17 hours more driving (77 hours instead of 60) each week. The rule dramatically expands driving and work hours by cutting the off-duty rest and recovery time at the end of the week from a full weekend of 50 or more hours off duty to as little as only 34 hours off-duty. 

In addition, the Bush administration failed to consider the health and medical consequences of letting truckers drive and work substantially more hours. In the current case, even though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) agrees that drivers may pay a cost in terms of their health and well-being, FMCSA rejected consideration of this serious problem in the benefit-cost analysis.

The groups have previously won unanimous decisions from two separate panels of the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., in 2004 and 2007, only to have the Bush administration defiantly impose the same rule each time. The Court of Appeals, in each decision, lambasted the FMCSA for its lack of reasoning and failure to provide essential information to the public. 

“FMCSA is supposed to protect truck drivers and the public from unsafe driving conditions,” said Greg Beck, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case. “Instead, it only protected the trucking industry. The court should reject this rule once and for all and force the agency to do its job.”

Added Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, “This rule was identified by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as one of the Bush administration’s harmful midnight regulations affecting Americans. Safety groups agree. Issuing a new hours-of-service rule should be a top priority of the new leadership at the Department of Transportation. Almost 5,000 people a year are killed in truck crashes, including more than 650 truck drivers. Fatigue is a major problem in the trucking industry, and this rule only makes it worse.”

Joan Claybrook, former president of Public Citizen and chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), a member of the Truck Safety Coalition, said, “The Bush-era hours-of-service rule treats truck drivers like sweatshop workers. There is no justification for defending this rule that has been unanimously overturned twice in the federal courts. The rule puts industry cost savings ahead of public safety and employee protection.”

“It’s time to put the health and safety of our truckers ahead of the interests of the trucking industry,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “Drivers can be forced to work dangerously long hours under the current rule.”