On January 15th, ATA filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking it to compel the Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a long-overdue supporting documents regulation. Supporting documents refer to the documents a motor carrier must retain for six months that can be used to verify drivers’ hours-of-service records.
In 1994, Congress recognized that the failure of the DOT to properly define for motor carriers what constituted a supporting document was imposing a financial and administrative burden on the trucking industry. Consequently, Congress ordered the agency in 1994 to promulgate a rule that would designate the “number, type, and frequency of [required] supporting document retention” and to ensure that such retention would be at a “reasonable cost” to motor carriers.
Despite that directive, which called for a rule to become effective within 18 months, the DOT has failed to act. Instead, the agency has by informal guidelines adopted as broad a definition of supporting document retention as is possible, identifying 34 categories of records and ruling that any document that “could” possibly be used to verify hours-of-service records must be retained as a supporting document. Accordingly, the administrative and financial burden recognized by Congress remains in place and the agency’s recent pursuit of various types of electronic records (as supporting documents) in compliance reviews has exacerbated the problem.
The ATA Executive Committee and the ATA Litigation Center Board of Directors authorized ATA staff to pursue litigation if necessary to require DOT to timely issue the prescribed regulation under the reasonable cost standard directed by Congress. Informal contacts with the agency by ATA staff failed to secure a commitment to act on the supporting documents regulation in anything less than an approximately two-year period. Consequently, ATA filed what is referred to as a “mandamus” action by which a court can compel government officials to perform their legal duties. In the action, ATA is asking the Court to require the agency to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) within 60 days of the Court’s ruling and a final rule within six months of the NPRM publication date. Actions to require agencies to issue overdue regulations are common and often result in a settlement whereby the agency agrees to act within a negotiated timeframe. Contacts: Robert Digges Jr. at email@example.com and Dave Osiecki at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Sun, January 17, 2010