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Lawsuit seeks to limit truckers' hours

  • Story Highlights
  • Safety advocates ask court to block rule allowing more time behind wheel
  • Current rule allows 11 hours of driving a day
  • Transport chief says 11-hour rule is safe
  • Advocates say trucker fatigue leads to accidents
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From Paul Courson
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Safety advocates went to federal court Thursday asking judges to block a Transportation Department rule on work hours for truckers.

Under a new rule, truckers could drive another hour before being required to take a break.

The controversy dates to 2003, when the Bush administration increased from 10 to 11 hours the limit a commercial trucker may drive without a mandatory break within a 14 hour period.

Opponents, citing the risk of driver fatigue, twice persuaded a federal court to reject implementation of the extended hours.

Despite those setbacks, the Transportation Department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put into place an "interim final rule" that places a daily limit at 11 hours a day and up to 70 hours a week depending on whether the trips are long-haul or local.

In documents filed Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals, lawyers for a coalition of groups including "Parents Against Tired Truckers" asked judges to immediately enforce the court's order striking down the hours-of-service rule.

"We have the data to indicate it is safe," U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said.

When asked Wednesday whether the new rule goes against the court order, Peters told CNN "It does." But she added, "We've analyzed the court ruling and we think we've made an appropriate decision based on our analysis of the court ruling."

Peters' spokesman, Brian Turmail, on Friday told CNN the transportation secretary intended to say she felt the rule complies with the court's order, and is not in violation.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, a member of a committee reviewing trucker safety, issued a statement after a hearing Wednesday saying the rule "allows truckers to drive for 30 percent longer each week, putting families at higher risk of an accident involving a tired truck driver."

The panel heard testimony from several people who had lost family members in fatal accidents involving fatigued truck drivers. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Traffic AccidentsMary E. PetersU.S. Department of Transportation

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