In re Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (truck driver training)

Topic(s): 
Auto and Truck Safety and Related Issues
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Case Description: 

In 1991, Congress ordered the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a rulemaking on training for entry-level commercial motor vehicle drivers. The rulemaking process was to be completed by 1993. In 2002, when the agency still had not issued a rule, Public Citizen and other organizations filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, seeking an order compelling the agency to act. In a settlement agreement, the agency agreed to issue the rule by May 31, 2004. The agency issued a rule by that date, but the rule required no training in the operational skills and knowledge necessary to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. Instead, it required drivers to receive training only in driver qualifications, hours of service requirements, driver health and wellness, and whistleblower protection. On behalf of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen challenged the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which declared the rule arbitrary and capricious and remanded to the agency. In 2007, the agency published a proposed rule, which required behind-the-wheel training. However, it never issued a final rule. In 2012, Congress enacted another statute, directing DOT to issue entry-level driver training requirements. This time, Congress set a deadline of October 1, 2013.

A year after that deadline, when the agency had not yet even issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, Public Citizen filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on behalf of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Citizens for Reliable and Safety Highways, seeking an order compelling the agency to issue an entry-level driver training rule by a firm deadline. In its response to the petition, DOT stated that it expected to issue a final rule by September 2016. On March 10, 2015, the DC Circuit ordered the petition be held in abeyance to permit the agency to issue final regulations by September 30, 2016.

In December 2015, after DOT repeatedly pushed back the projected NPRM publication date, we filed a motion asking the Court to take the petition out of abeyance and require DOT to issue a final rule by September 2016. DOT responded that an order was “unnecessary in light of the agency’s continuing efforts and commitment to issue a final rule by that time.” Based on the agency’s representations, on March 9, 2016, the Court ordered that the petition remain held in abeyance.

On December 8, 2016, DOT published in the Federal Register a final rule on minimum training standards for entry-level  commercial motor vehicle drivers.  After DOT published the rule, we voluntarily dismissed the petition.