(Oct. 5) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hours-of-service regulations put into effect in January by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration could stay in effect for nearly another year thanks to a law signed by President Bush.

The law, part of an extension of the transportation bill approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, keeps the current rules in effect until the administration issues a new rule or until Sept. 30, 2005.

The law came as a result of a lawsuit filed by several activist groups — Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

Citing issues such as driver fatigue and road safety, the groups argued that the rules allowed drivers too many consecutive and weekly hours without rest. The groups said they are concerned that fatigued drivers could be a danger to everyone on the roads.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. agreed, stating on July 16 that the rules would be suspended until they could be revised and the industry would revert to the old rules. However, on July 19, the agency said the new rules would stay in place during a 45-day review period.

That 45-day period ended on Sept. 30 with no changes to the rules being made. The extension buys the administration a little more time.

Under the previous hours-of-service 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, which went into effect on Jan. 4, state that drivers can work a maximum of 14 consecutive hours, with no more than 11 of those hours spent driving.