Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Truck Driver Fatigue Rules

A trucking industry association asked a federal appeals court to throw out new regulations limiting truck drivers’ hours behind the wheel.

The American Trucking Associations Inc. (ATA) argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) used irrelevant crash research to justify its driver-fatigue rules. They claim the new law would cost the trucking industry $470 million each year and would not increase safety.

The rules are set go into effect on July 1. The ATA says truck drivers would be forced to travel during rush hour, which would undermine safety. The group also claims that restrictions on early-morning driving would hinder timely delivery of perishable goods to grocers and restaurants.

Safety advocates, on the other hand, argued to appeals court judges that the measures are not restrictive enough.

Judge Thomas Griffith said that it was not the court’s job to determine whether a policy was good or bad and that it was not in his capacity to choose which scientific effort to believe. Griffith said that the court should have “light hands” on the matter and should “make sure what the agency came up with is not irrational.”

The federal agency and the industry association traded accusations of cherry-picking crash data to back their arguments. When it created the new rule, the FMCSA said that 13 percent of crashes involving tractor-trailers are caused by fatigue. The ATA says that figure includes all collisions in which fatigue is present, not just those in which it causes the crash. The association claims driver fatigue causes only two percent of truck crashes, but the FMCSA says that figure is based on a study involving only fatal accidents.

Tractor-trailers are involved in a large number of severe and fatal collisions. Driver fatigue is one of many indications of possible negligence. We at Lietz Law Firm have extensive experience and success in litigating large truck crashes.

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