(Sept. 12) WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rejected requests from eight companies to modify or make exceptions to the recently updated hours-of-service regulations.

The requests came from a diverse group of companies, including Wal-Mart and the Hours-of-Service Coalition, which represents a group of businesses with short-haul trucking operations. That group includes the National Potato Council.

The administration said the petitions fell into four categories: requests for off-duty time to extend the 14-hour on-duty time limit; exemption of utility vehicles and workers from the regulations; miscellaneous changes such as altering the definition of commercial motor vehicles; and allowing early compliance with the rule before the Jan. 4 effective date.

The Hours-of-Service Coalition said the agency has not adequately demonstrated how the benefits of the rule will apply to short-haul truck drivers. The coalition argued that short-haul drivers spend more time doing nondriving work than long-haul drivers do. In addition, the group said companies with short-haul drivers would have to purchase additional trucks and hire additional drivers to make up for the time they would lose under the new rule.

The rule allows drivers to work for 14 hours, rather than 15 hours as under the previous rule. The trouble, the coalition said, is that those hours must now be taken consecutively, whereas before drivers were allowed to go off duty for breaks.

What’s more, short-haul truckers are more likely than long-haul drivers to be on duty for more than 14 hours a day.

Wal-Mart said it would lose 150,000 miles a day and have to add 275 more drivers and 300 more trucks to make up for the time it would lose under the new rule.

In June, several safety advocate groups filed a lawsuit against the agency in an attempt to make changes to the rules.

The groups — Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers — want the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the rule.

The lawsuit claims that the regulations do not meet the requirements of a law passed in 1995 that abolished the Interstate Commerce Commission. Under the terms of that law, the Federal Highway Administration was to issue rules regarding driver fatigue by 1996.

Under the previous regulations, which had been in place since 1939, drivers were allowed to work a maximum of 15 consecutive hours, with no more than 10 of those hours spent driving.

The new regulations state that drivers can work a maximum of 14 consecutive hours, with no more than 11 of those hours spent driving.

The agency claims that the changes to the rule will save up to 75 lives and prevent as many as 1,326 fatigue-related crashes each year.