The trucking industry effort to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule missed a gear Tuesday when the House passed an appropriations bill that does not contain such a provision.
The bill went into two days of floor debate with a provision that calls for a report on the safety benefits of the restart but does not suspend it.
Hill insiders had expected to see a floor amendment similar to the one in the bill reported out by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which would suspend the restart while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studies it.
A House version of that amendment did not surface on the floor, however.
It may be that the political climate for the suspension was not receptive to the suspension, following the fatal truck crash on the New Jersey Turnpike involving comedian Tracy Morgan.
In a letter to House members this week, Teamsters Union President James Hoffa said that any move to suspend the restart would weaken highway safety standards. He urged representatives to oppose any suspension amendments.
This means that the question about suspension of the restart must be resolved when the House and Senate confer on their separate transportation appropriations bills.
The full Senate is supposed to take up its bill next week. Although the bill as it now stands calls for suspension and a study, there could be a move to take out the suspension on the floor.
Adding to the uncertainty, there remains the possibility that Congress will not be able to clear an appropriations package at all before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. This could trigger a Continuing Resolution to carry over current funding and policy into next year, in which case the status quo will remain in place.
The bottom line for carriers and drivers: the current 34-hour restart is in effect until further notice.