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Truckers Sue DOT for Record-Keeping Rule
Tuesday, 19 January 2010 00:00
Trucking group seeks ruling on proof of compliance with hours-of-service rules

The American Trucking Associations is suing the Department of Transportation in an attempt to force it to declare what supporting documents trucking companies must keep to prove their employees comply with federal rules limiting truckers' driving time.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 19, the association asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to order DOT to issue a notice of proposed rule-making within 60 days on the supporting hours-of-service documents carriers must keep and how long they must be kept.

Typically, those documents include not only driver log books but fuel and toll receipts, dispatching records and many other papers and, increasingly, electronic data. DOT is working on a rule that could require electronic onboard recorders on trucks.

The lawsuit ratchets up pressure on DOT as its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reworks the HOS rules and signals the importance of that effort to the trucking industry. The ATA supports regulations issued by the Bush administration in late 2008, which the FMCSA is revising. That could result in a shorter workday for truckers, and, many in the trucking industry fear, higher costs for carriers and shippers.

The FMCSA in November said it would release a proposed HOS rule this year and a final rule by August 2011.

The ATA's interest in the supporting documents issue is not new. "ATA has been seeking a fair and costeffective regulation, consistent with federal law, for more than 15 years," said Dave Osiecki, ATA senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs.

This is the first time the ATA has sued the DOT over the issue since the department began to rework the HOS rules, which it has revised three times in the past decade.

"We have a tremendous amount of respect for the Department of Transportation and the work they do, but we had to show the department just how important the supporting documents issue is to our industry," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "We hope this lawsuit prompts a greater focus on the issue and that the department will be willing to work with us to get the regulation out within a reasonable time frame."

Congress ordered the DOT to develop a rule on supporting documents in 1994, when it first ordered a revision of the decades-old trucking hours-of-service rules.

Instead of a formal rule, the department issued informal guidelines with a broad definition of supporting documents, ATA said, identifying 34 categories of records and ruling that any document "could" possibly be used to verify HOS records. Now the industry wants more clarity, especially as growing use of electronic devices and electronic data storage could change how many carriers keep their records.

"In order to comply, trucking companies need to know what the rules are," Osiecki said. "The requirements have never been established by regulation."

Journal of Commerce Online, 1/19/2010