UPS Pilots Engage FAA in Latest Round in Fight for Uniform Duty Time Rules

 - January 23, 2012, 12:51 PM
UPS pilots want a new, stricter duty-time law to apply to cargo carriers as well as passenger airlines. (Photo: UPS)

The union representing UPS pilots today filed its preliminary statement of issues, as ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in its challenge to the FAA’s exclusion of cargo operations from its final rule on pilot flight and duty time.

The FAA only suggests that cargo carriers voluntarily comply with the new rule, due to take effect in two years. Published in mid-December, the rule requires that pilots get at least 10 hours rest before each flight-duty period, rather than the current eight. It also places new limits on the number of hours a pilot can fly weekly and monthly and extends the required number of consecutive hours off in a seven-day period from 24 to 30.

“Our preliminary statement of issues outlines the basic arguments we will raise to advance our case,” said William Trent, general counsel for the Independent Pilots Association (IPA). “It is the basis of our challenge to the FAA’s exclusion of cargo airlines from the final rule.”  He added that the IPA does not seek to vacate or delay the rule itself.

In a statement issued today, the IPA called the FAA decision to discard its proposal in 2010 to uniformly apply new flight and duty time laws throughout the airline industry “capricious,” adding that the FAA’s “arbitrary” assumptions in its cost-benefit analysis lack “substantial” evidence. 

“The FAA failed to act in accordance with law by not providing interested parties an opportunity to review and comment on its cost-benefit calculations, the FAA’s sole basis for its determination to exclude cargo operations from the final rule,” said the IPA. “The FAA failed to act in accordance with law by ignoring the fatigue facts and factors that are more prevalent in cargo operations, specifically night-time operations and flying across multiple time zones.”

The court has ordered the FAA to file the certified index of the record—essentially a catalog of the regulatory docket—by February 6, according to Trent. “This will be the first chance we have to review the entire record relied upon by the FAA in reaching its decision on the final rule,” he said.