Court of Appeals affirms Hours of Service Rules

D.C. Circuit

The D.C. Circuit Courthouse

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (the D.C. Circuit) in a decision dated August 2, 2013 has affirmed the hours-of-service final rule that was published on December 27, 2011, with the exception of the 30-minute break requirement for “short haul” drivers. “Short haul” drivers make trips within a 150 mile radius of their home base.

Said Judge Janice Rogers Brown for the court: “For our purposes, the 2011 Final Rule resembles the earlier rules in all essential respects save for the addition of several new, safety-enhancing provisions:

• 30-Minute Off-Duty Break. The 2011 Final Rule bars
truckers from driving past 8 hours unless they have had
an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes.

• Once-Per-Week Restriction. To prevent drivers from
abusing the 34-hour restart, the 2011 Final Rule allows
truckers to invoke the provision only once every 168
hours (or 7 days).

• Two-Night Requirement. To ensure that drivers using
the 34-hour restart have an opportunity to get two nights
of rest, the 2011 Final Rule also mandates that the restart
include two blocks of time from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.”

“With one small exception, our decision today brings
to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the
HOS rules. Though FMCSA won the day not on the strengths
of its rulemaking prowess, but through an artless war of
attrition, the controversies of this round are ended.”

While the controversies may be ended, confusion over the ruling has begun. For example, the DOT has been asked to clarify if the rule concerning short-haul drivers includes CDL drivers as well.

A simple rule of thumb to follow in lieu of further DOT clarification may be to require any driver who must use a logbook to log a 30-minute break as required.