The bill that would suspend the new 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule also sets a deadline for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to publish its electronic logging device mandate.
It orders the agency to post the final rule by January 30, 2015.
The agency was supposed to finish the rule last October but still is in the midst of the rulemaking process.
It recently extended the comment period on its proposal from May 27 until June 26 at the request of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which represents state police and other enforcement interests. The Alliance said it needs more time to understand the impact of the technology the agency is proposing.
The mandate will require drivers who use paper logs to eventually switch to electronic logs. It also covers technical standards for the devices and the supporting documents that regulators need to confirm compliance. And it sets requirements to ensure that electronic logs are not used to harass drivers.
The January 30, 2015, deadline is connected to the bill’s requirement that FMCSA conduct a naturalistic study of the restart, comparing the performance of drivers using the new restart to those using the old one.
The bill says that researchers conducting the study should use data collected through ELDs that meet the requirements of the mandate. The January deadline is intended to ensure that compliant ELDs will be available for the study in a timely manner.
The new restart requires drivers to take off two successive periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their 34-hour break. It also limits use of the restart to once a week. Neither of these restrictions are in the old restart.
Trucking interests contend that the new restart adds costs to their operations, cuts into driver pay and does not improve safety.
Over the protests of other trucking interests and FMCSA, this argument persuaded a majority of the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to vote for suspension of the new restart while FMCSA does the study. The vote on the transportation funding bill occurred Thursday, and the full Senate is scheduled to take up the issue June 16.
The House, meanwhile, is considering a transportation appropriations measure that takes a different tack.
Its bill criticizes FMCSA’s handling of the restart provision but does not suspend the restart. Instead, it tells FMCSA to report back with scientific evidence for the once-a-week restriction on the restart. The report must include an assessment of the effect of the restriction on safety and traffic and any other “unintended consequences.”
The House Appropriations Committee bill still has to clear the full House. Then that bill will have to be reconciled with what the Senate passes, a process that creates plenty of opportunity for changes in the status of the restart.