From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Appeals Court Repeals Hours Rule for Long Haul Truckers

On September 14 long-haul truck drivers in the United States might be able to return to their old work regulations, which stipulated no more than 10 hours straight behind the wheel. In July a US appeals court threw out a rule issued in 2005 by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that allowed truckers to drive an extra hour without a break. As the change will be challenged, the September date could come and go with no change.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which also threw out a rule that would have effectively increased weekly time limits on drivers’ hours by at least 25 percent, argued that the FMCSA did not adequately explain its reasoning for adding the extra hour.

Before the 2005 change, the 10-hour limit had been in place for 60 years.

According to the Associated Press and Reuters, the court’s decision is part of a long-running battle between the FMCSA and American Trucking Associations (ATA), on one hand, and advocacy groups, such as Public Citizen, on the other.

The ATA said it would seek a stay of the July ruling until the federal safety agency can address the court’s concerns.

The issue has been through the appeals court before. In July 2004 it repealed the FMCSA’s first 11-hour regulation, arguing that the extra hour didn’t take into concern the health of the drivers. That ruling was subsequently reversed by the Bush administration. 

"We’re delighted with the decision," Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, a senior attorney for the Public Citizen Litigation Center, told AP. "Long-haul truckers drive too many hours, and a rule that allows them to drive more hours is dangerous for the public and for the drivers themselves."

Studies show that lack of sleep can compromise a worker’s ability to perform his or her job effectively.

A 2004 article in Ergonomics Today™ about the first court challenge to the 11-hour rule included statistics from a 1997 survey by the National Sleep Foundation. In it, 63 percent of respondents noted that when they were coping with poor sleep they had more difficulty handling stressful situations. Fifty-five percent of the respondents had difficulties solving problems on the job, 48 percent had difficulty making decisions and overall, respondents believed their concentration was only about 70 percent of normal on days following a poor-sleep night.

Sources: Associated Press; Reuters; Ergonomics Today™