A major spending bill containing several provisions of importance to the trucking industry, including a continuation of the 34-hour restart suspension, narrowly passed the U.S. House late Tuesday night, but it still has to pass the Senate and faces a possible veto.
Lawmakers approved the $55.3 billion spending bill for fiscal year 2016 by a 216-210 margin. The Senate must pass its own version of the bill, and then any differences must be ironed out between the two bills.
Known as the T-HUD bill because it sets the fiscal-year appropriations for the Departments of Transportation and Housing & Urban, H.R. 2527 contains several provisions affecting trucking. These would:
- Allow 33-foot long double trailers to operate on Interstate and other highways— regardless of state laws prohibiting them.
- Keep the 34-hour restart rule suspended until a Federal study is completed and only revoke the rule suspension if that FMCSA impact report shows that “drivers who operated under the restart provisions… demonstrated statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity and work schedules” vs. drivers who had run under the rules in place before the 2013 change.
- Prevent the government from increasing the $750,000 minimum liability insurance coverage now required for truckers.
- Remove funding to implement wireless roadside inspections on highways.
While a policy statement the White House issued on June 1 broadly objects to the bill on the grounds that it would shortchange critically needed investments in transportation infrastructure and housing assistance, it also has language expressing concerns about the size and weight and hours of service provisions.
While the White House thinks the bill doesn't have enough infrastructure spending, the conservative group Heritage Action nearly derailed the measure, arguing it contained too much funding for infrastructure projects.
The American Trucking Associations issued a statement applauding the passage of the restart and "twin 33" provisions, saying they are "critical for improving the safety and efficiency of the trucking industry."
“By including language requiring a more robust study of the hours-of-service restart restrictions originally imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in July 2013, and a modest increase in the length of some truck combinations, the House has taken an important step in improving the safety of our highways, first and foremost, but also the efficiency of our highway system and the industry that moves nearly 70% of the nation’s goods,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.
However, the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, aka The Trucking Alliance, previously told HDT that like the ATA, it's unhappy about what it calls "cuts to infrastructure funding." But unlike the larger organization, this group of influential, safety-minded fleets doesn't care for the trucking provisions.
Alliance Managing Director Lane Kidd told HDT recently, “Just two years ago, Congress directed the Department of Transportation to study whether minimum insurance levels for trucking companies should be increased and whether the current hours-of-service rules are improving highway safety.
“This appropriations legislation stops those items from being studied, and cuts funding for such new technologies as wireless e-log inspections, and could even threaten critical rules like the electronic logging device mandate and the drug and alcohol clearinghouse."