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Before going into some of the finer points of the HOS issues, let's learn more about and commenting on the proposed rule changes.
By law, all proposed federal regulation has a sixty-day comment period during which interested parties are invited to comment upon any proposed regulation. In the case of the current NPRM, the clock started on Wednesday, December 29, 2010. The deadline for submitting any comments is February 28, 2011.
Time is short for comments, and shippers and consignees should make their voices heard in this process. While some may argue that this will not change the rule-making process or have any effect on the proposed rules, it does have a impact when the rules go back to court—and if the history of the rule is any guide, the odds of this happening are good. In the courts, only comments that are entered into the public record are accepted in defense of the rules.
How to Submit Your Comments
To avoid duplication, please use only one of these methods:
Submit Comments Online (Federal eRulemaking Portal)
Submit Comments by Fax
Submit Comments by Mail or Hand Delivery
How to View Comments and Documents
All public comments, as well as documents mentioned in this notice, are available in the public docket. Follow the below steps to view all comments or documents.
The Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration appear to be very sensitive to any issues that arise from a lack of notice or comment, since all the legal actions used to reject past versions of the law gained footing from a perceived lack of comment. Along with the standard ways to allow for comment, the FMCSA took the unprecedented step of scheduling a series of listening sessions, public meetings that included not only live comment from people in the audience, but comments via telephone and over the Internet. These listening sessions not only gave the usual suspects access for comment, but opened the floodgates for the drivers to comment.
The following is an excerpt from the FMCSA web site regarding the five listing sessions conducted in January and March of 2010. These listening sessions gathered information prior to the publishing of the new NPRM.
"The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) invites the public to participate in a series of five listening sessions in January 2010 to gather information and comments as the agency prepares a rule-making proposal on hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for property-carrying commercial vehicle drivers. The agency wants to hear from commercial drivers, carriers, owner-operators, safety advocates, safety enforcement, researchers, and others about topics such as rest and on-duty time, sleeper berth use, and the effect the current hours-of-service rule has on loading and unloading times for drivers.
Hours-of-Service Listening Session Thursday, January 28, 2010 1:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m. CST Davenport, Iowa
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is gathering information and comments in preparation for a rule-making proposal on hours-of-service requirements for property-carrying commercial vehicle drivers. The agency wants to hear about topics such as rest and on-duty time, sleeper-berth use, and the effect of the current hours-of-service rule on loading and unloading times for drivers.
NOTE: Please do not participate by Webcast or audio conference while driving a vehicle.
The web site to watch the Davenport "Listening Sessions." Go there—it is eye opening, if a bit dull.
And to listen to the rest of the recorded sessions:
Notice of Proposed Rule Making - December 29, 2010:
DOT - FMCSA Web Page on HOS Rule Change