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Auto and Truck Safety and Related Issues

Truck Safety - Truck Drivers' Hours of Service

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Public Citizen v. FMCSA (III)

In a petition filed on March 9, 2009 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Public Citizen, along with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, asked the court for the third time to review the final hours-of-service rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), This petition seeks review of the hours-of-service regulation issued by FMCSA on November 13, 2008 and published in the Federal Register on November 19, 2008. Like the identical rule issued by FMCSA in August 2005 and nearly identical rule issued in April 2003, the 2008 rule significantly increases the permissible number of hours that drivers may drive, both per shift and on a weekly basis. Under the 2008 rule, truck drivers may drive 11 consecutive hours before taking a break -- one hour more than permitted before the 2003 rule went into effect. In addition, under the 2008 rule, drivers are permitted to drive 77 hours in seven days or 88 hours in eight days -- a more than 25 percent increase over the pre-2003 limits. The permissible number of on-duty hours during which truckers may drive has also mounted: a driver working 14-hour shifts can now work as many as 84 hours in seven days or 98 hours in eight days -- a 40 percent increase over the pre-2003 limits.

The petition for review is the first step in legally challenging this latest rule. The D.C. Circuit struck down both the 2003 and 2005 versions of this regulation in decisions issued in July 2004 and July 2007.

Public Citizen v. FMCSA (II)

In a petition filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Public Citizen, along with four other groups, asked the court to review the final hours-of-service rule issued August 25, 2005, by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The petition is the first step in legally challenging the rule. Three of the groups – Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) – successfully sued the government over the rule in 2003 and this time are joined by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which filed a critical amicus brief in the previous case, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Like the nearly identical rule issued by FMCSA in April 2003, which the court struck down in 2004, the 2005 rule dramatically increases both the number of hours that truckers may drive without a break and the number of hours truckers may drive per week. Before 2003, truckers were permitted to drive no more than 10 consecutive hours before taking a break. Now, truckers can drive for 11 hours straight. Before 2003, drivers were barred from driving after they had worked 60 hours in the previous seven days or 70 hours in the previous eight, depending on the company schedule. Under the new rule, truckers can now drive 77 hours in seven days or 88 hours in eight days — a more than 25 percent increase. On-duty hours during which truckers may drive have also climbed, so that a driver working 14-hour shifts under the new rules can now work as many as 84 hours in seven days or 98 hours in eight days — a 40 percent increase over the old limits.

On July 24, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the two provisions of the 2005 hours-of-service rule that permitted truck drivers to increase their driving hours: the 11-hour consecutive driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision.

On September 6, 2007, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents the trucking industry, filed a motion in the D.C. Circuit requesting that the court stay its mandate. A stay of the mandate would push back the effective date of the court's order. Public Citizen and the other groups that brought this case oppose that motion. On September 28, 2007 the Court issued an order granting a 90-day stay of its mandate, rather than the 8-month stay that ATA requested or the 1-year stay that FMCSA requested.

On December 10, 2007, FMCSA issued an interim final rule (IFR) (published in the Federal Register on December 17, 2007) retaining during new rulemaking proceedings the hours-of-service rule it adopted in 2005, including the 11-hour consecutive driving limit and the 34-hour restart--the two provisions vacated by the Court. The IFR updates the agency's operator-fatigue model and provides other new data and justifications for the rule's driving-hour increases. Despite the Court's July 2007 ruling that the 2005 rule was unlawful for failing to provide advance notice and an opportunity for comment on an earlier version of the model, the IFR affords an opportunity for public comment only after-the-fact.

On December 19, 2007, Public Citizen and the other petitioners filed a motion in the D.C. Circuit asking it to set aside the IFR as unlawful. Petitioners contend that the IFR violates the court's July 2007 decision and the September 2007 order granting the agency only a 90-day stay.

In late 2007, The Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics & Policy published an article, Hours of Service - Missed Opportunities, Illegal Shortcuts, by Bonnie I. Robin-Vergeer, lead attorney for the groups challenging the hours-of-service rules, presenting the petitioners' views on why the 11-hour consecutive driving limit and the 34-hour restart provision are indefensible.

To view other documents and information relating to truck safety and hours-of-service, please visit the following links:

Public Citizen v. FMCSA (I)

Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) have successfully challenged the final rule governing the hours of service of commercial truck drivers, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The regulation expands the hours that truckers may legally drive, fails to mandate the use of electronic onboard recording devices to put an end to the pervasive violations of legal limits, and regrettably, is likely to lead to many avoidable deaths and injuries on the nation’s highways.

Public Citizen v. Mukasey

In 1992, Congress required the federal government to establish and implement the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), a single database that would provide public access to vehicle-history information gathered from states, insurance companies, and junk and salvage yards. Before purchasing a potentially dangerous used car, a consumer using the database would be able to instantly check the validity of the vehicle’s title, verify its mileage, and learn whether it had been stolen or deemed a junk or salvage vehicle.

Sixteen years since Congress first required the creation of the database, the government still has not done what Congress required it do: It has not yet set a start date for the reporting of vehicle-history information by junk yards and insurance companies, has not yet issued regulations to facilitate the reporting of that information, and has not yet made any vehicle-history information accessible to consumers. Because the government’s failure to comply with these statutory directives puts consumers at unnecessary risk of economic loss and physical harm, Public Citizen, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, and Consumer Action are bringing this lawsuit to compel the Attorney General of the United States to take action that is required by law and that has been unreasonably delayed.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Public Citizen represented Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with FMCSA in October 2006 for information about activities to develop or implement a program to evaluate Mexico-domiciled motor carriers that would be permitted to operate beyond the Mexico-United States border zone. In a series of productions in 2008 and early 2009, the agency procedure records related to the program.

Advocates For Highway and Auto Safety

This lawsuit, in which Public Citizen represented Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, challenged a final rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on minimum training standards for entry‑level drivers of commercial motor vehicles, including heavy trucks and buses. Instead of requiring entry‑level truck and bus drivers to receive training in topics such as backing up, shifting, changing lanes, parking, controlling skids, and driving on mountainous roads-the operational skills and knowledge necessary to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle-the final rule required drivers to receive training just in the four tangential areas of driver qualifications: hours of service requirements, driver wellness, and whistleblower protection. On December 2, 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the agency’s final rule was arbitrary and capricious and remanded to the agency for further rule-making.

Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen v. NHTSA

This lawsuit challenges the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) policy of allowing vehicle manufacturers to limit certain recalls of defective vehicles to select states. The complaint charges that regional recalls violate the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, because the Act requires that all owners of defective motor vehicles receive notice and a free remedy; that NHTSA's policy of permitting regional recalls has been applied arbitrarily; and that even if regional recalls were legal, NHTSA illegally implemented the policy by failing to provide notice and solicit public comment before allowing the regional recalls.

In September 2004, the district court ruled against the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen. The plaintiffs have filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

National Resource Defense Council, Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety v. Mineta and Leavitt

This lawsuit, brought by Public Citizen, NRDC, and Center for Auto Safety, challenges a final rule issued by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in early 2004 extending the "dual-fuel" vehicle fuel economy credit program for another four years until 2008—despite overwhelming evidence on the record that an extension will lead to substantial increases in fuel consumption and emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The "dual-fuel" credit provision gives automakers inflated fuel economy credits for selling vehicles that can run on either an alternative fuel, such as ethanol, or on conventional gasoline. Given the inaccessibility and higher price of the ethanol blend that can be used by these dual-fueled vehicles, the vehicles almost never run on anything other than gas. The program has created a significant loophole in federal fuel economy standards by allowing auto manufacturers to receive credit for producing millions of these dual-fuel vehicles and thereby offset shortfalls in the fuel economy ratings of their car and light-truck fleets. As the plaintiffs contend in their lawsuit, NHTSA’s decision to extend this ineffective and counter-productive program for four more years was both contrary to the statute authorizing the program and arbitrary and capricious.

Air Bag Standards

Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety and others have challenged the Department of Transportation's decision to lower the standards of protection that air bags must satisfy for unbelted crash tests.

Tire Pressure Monitoring

Public Citizen. et al. v. Mineta (2d Circuit)

Public Citizen, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Auto Safety have successfully challenged the Department of Transportation's decision to allow installation of an ineffective system to warn drivers when their tires are under inflated.

Truck Safety Rules

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has agreed to issue long-overdue truck safety rules under a binding Settlement Agreement effective February 24, 2003. The DOT agreed to issue the rules after Public Citizen, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways sued the agency in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington for ignoring statutes that required the agency to issue the safety rules by deadlines, some of which passed more than a decade ago. Under the Agreement, the DOT will issue final rules in five vital areas over the next 18 months, starting with hours-of-service rules to address driver fatigue, which are due to be issued by the end of May this year. The other rules address: (1) establishing minimum background checks for new commercial truck drivers; (2) setting minimum training requirements for drivers of longer-combination vehicles; (3) requiring background checks for new truck drivers; and (4) establish permitting and other requirements for commercial vehicles that transport certain hazardous materials.

Public Citizen v. Peters, Secretary of the Department of Transportation
(formerly: Public Citizen v. Norman Mineta, Secretary of the Department of Transportation)

Public Citizen is suing the Department of Transportation for promulgating a regulation prohibiting disclosure of certain types of automobile safety information. Public Citizen argues that the regulation violate the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires disclosure of all records held by federal agencies unless an exemption to FOIA applies. On March 31, 2006, and July 31, 2006, the district court issued opinions agreeing with Public Citizen that the early warning data is releasable under FOIA and that the Transportation Department's regulation exempting some of the data from release was unlawfully promulgated.

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