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Appeals court upholds workweek limits for truck drivers

Disputes and legal challenges to federal rules on hours-of-service limits for truck drivers went on so long that they were once known as the "never-ending saga."

At last, however, this saga is turning the page into a new chapter. It isn't only that new rules are finally in place to limit the amount of time truck drivers can be on the road without taking breaks. Those rules have now been upheld by a key federal appeals court.

After all the legal skirmishing, it is important to remember the reason for the rules: to help prevent truck accidents caused by driver fatigue.

In the recent court ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the new hours-of-service limitations with only one exception. That exception was the applicability of the new rules to short-haul drivers. Short-haul drivers are those who do not travel more than 150 air miles from their home base terminals.

For long-haul drivers, though, the new rules have been upheld. A driver's average maximum work week is now limited to 70 hours, down from 82. And in order to restart a work week, truckers must be off the road for two consecutive nights. More specifically, that means taking a 34-hour break that includes to time periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. in succession.

Federal regulators did plenty of systematic research along the way to proposing this rule. But the logic of such a rule also fits with common sense. The hours between 1 and 5 a.m. are the hours when the body's natural sleep cycle seeks to take hold - and when the risk of truck accidents caused by drowsy driving can easily increase.

Source: The Trucker, "FMCSA wins HOS battle 'through artless war of attrition,' says appeals court," Lyndon Finney, August 2, 2013

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