U.S. Transportation Department regulations meant to ensure truck drivers get more rest were mostly upheld by a federal appeals court, a defeat for companies that said the rules would add cost without improving highway safety.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in Washington on Friday rejected most arguments made by the American Trucking Associations Inc. as “highly technical points best left to the agency.” The court, giving one win to the industry, vacated a 30-minute rest requirement for short-haul truck drivers.
The ruling caps 14 years of wrangling among the trucking industry, safety advocates and regulators over drive-time restrictions that led to two previous challenges before the appellate court. The court also ruled against groups including Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition that said the rules didn’t go far enough.
“With one small exception, our decision today brings an end to much of the permanent warfare,” U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown said in the decision.
Longer rest breaks and the need to redesign routes may reduce productivity by 3 percent, translating into $18 billion in additional costs to the trucking industry annually, according to freight data and forecasting firm FTR Associates.
Regulators said they weighed industry costs against billions of dollars in health-care savings and reduced accidents in a profession that has more on-the-job deaths than any other in the U.S.
The Arlington, Virginia-based American Trucking Associations is disappointed in the court’s “unlimited deference” to the administration’s analysis in supporting the regulation, Dave Osiecki, the group’s senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, said in a statement.