Thursday night's approval of an omnibus spending bill by the House of Representatives brought a suspension of the controversial 34-hour restart provision of truck driver hours-of-service regulations one step closer to reality.
With just hours before government funding was scheduled to expire, the House voted 219-206 to pass the $1.1 trillion spending bill, which funds most of the government through the 2015 fiscal year. The House also approved a two-day extension of current funding. The Senate quickly agreed, preventing a government shutdown and giving the Senate a little more time to review the bill before voting.
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.
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 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.
The bill calls for a naturalistic study to begin within 90 days of signing.
The so-called “cromnibus” passed by the House Thursday night included an omnibus of 11 appropriations bills funding most of the government through September, and a continuing resolution funding the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27.
If the Senate tries to change the bill, because House members have already left town, it will in effect kill the package and the government will run out of funding at midnight Saturday.