Trucking interests are close to victory in their fight to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule.
The appropriations bill negotiated by the Senate and House will cut off funding for enforcement of the restart while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studies its impact.
The 1,603-page bill, unveiled Tuesday evening, provides funding for federal programs through next September. It still must be voted on by both chambers and signed by the president.
The suspension will last until the agency finishes the study or September 30 of next year, whichever comes later. Meanwhile, the earlier version of the restart will be in effect.
At issue is the provision in the 2013 hours of service rule that requires drivers to take two periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their 34-hour restart, and limits use of the restart to once a week.
American Trucking Associations contends that the provision reduces productivity for some carriers and may increase risk by putting more trucks on the road during Monday morning rush hour.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the provision improves safety because nighttime sleep is more restorative than daytime sleep.
Despite strong opposition from the Obama administration, safety advocates and the Teamsters union, Congress agreed to suspend the provision and revert to the pre-2013 restart, which does not contain those restrictions.
The bill calls for a naturalistic study to begin within 90 days of signing.
The study must compare work schedules, fatigue and safety-critical events such as crashes between two groups of drivers, one following the old provision and the other the new one. The bill says the agency should use electronic log data “to the extent practicable,” referencing the pending electronic log mandate.
An independent panel of medical and scientific experts must review the initial study plan and final report. Also, the Department of Transportation Inspector General must review the study plan to make sure it will produce valid results.