One of the biggest complaints about the new hours of service rules has been the new restrictions for 34-hour restarts. (Photo by Jim Park)
A trio of House legislators introduced a bill that would suspend the 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule, pending an assessment by the Government Accountability Office.
The bill would put carriers back under the 34-hour restart provision that was in force before July 1 while GAO looks at the methodology the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to write the new provision.
GAO would have a year to complete the work. The new provision could not be re-implemented until six months after GAO submits its report to Congress, and only if the study supports the rule.
The “True Understanding of the Economy and Safety Act” was drafted by Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Tom Rice, R-S.C., and Mike Michaud, D-Maine.
Hanna said in a statement that the 34-hour restart provision is “arbitrary and capricious” because the safety agency has not yet completed a study of its effectiveness.
“There are legitimate concerns that this new rule makes our roads less safe and hurts small business,” he said. “The TRUE Safety Act is a bipartisan effort to press the ‘pause button’ on this new rule while an independent assessment is completed.”
At issue is the study of the restart mandated in last year’s highway bill at the request of American Trucking Associations. ATA objects to the provision requiring drivers to take off two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their 34-hour restart, and contends that the research the agency used to justify the provision is not convincing.
Not all carriers are affected by the restart provision but those that are, typically long-haul truckload operations, have complained that it cuts into their productivity and does not improve safety.
The agency is late in completing the study of how several carriers’ field operations are affected by the restart provision.
In September, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told Hanna that the agency is “working as expeditiously as possible” and will release the study when it has finished its analysis and review of the data.
In a statement Thursday morning, FMCSA spokesperson Marissa Padilla said the agency has finished collecting data for the field study and still is working on the analysis and review.
“The agency does not comment on pending legislation,” she added.
The draft bill tells GAO to assess the methodology FMCSA used to write the restart provision.
Specifically, the bill says GAO should see if the data used represents the drivers who are subject to the provision and if the analysis is statistically valid. Also, the agency should look at the potential safety impact of the provision putting more drivers on the road during morning rush hour.
A spokesperson for Hanna, Renee Gamela, said the bill will likely be referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“We are currently building support for the stand-alone bill among House colleagues and stakeholder groups,” she said.