UPDATE: On Thursday, Dec. 8, the House passed the Continuing Resolution that contains the hours-of-service fix sought by trucking interests, according to Politico.com. The stopgap spending bill passed 326-96. When it will be passed by the Senate is uncertain because Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are fighting for Republican assent to a longer extension of expiring benefits for coal miners. If the Senate falls to act by the end of Dec.9, there could be a brief shutdown of the federal government that would last over the weekend.
Special legislation, in the form of a Continuing Resolution, introduced in Congress in hopes of averting a year-end government shutdown contains language that would permanently fix the glitch in previous legislation that threatened the use of a 34-hour restart as part of the hours-of-service rule for truck drivers.
The specific provision within the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 2028) requires that DOT “follow the existing 34-hour restart Hours of Service rule for truck drivers to ensure continuity in federal rest regulations, should the report on the rule (mandated in prior Acts) not meet the criteria set by Congress.”
The problem stemmed from a policy rider attached to a bill last year that was so poorly written it inadvertently added requirements to a Department of Transportation study on the effectiveness of the restart provisions. That study had been mandated earlier by Congress. The problematic legislation excised language on which HOS rule would apply if the goals to be weighed by the study were not met.
Because of the legislative glitch, if the DOT study— which is still underway-- finds that some restrictions on the restart imposed by DOT in 2013 do not provide specific health and safety benefits to drivers, the entire restart, not just the restrictions, could be eliminated. Those restrictions were suspended while the DOT performs the study.
Earlier this year, trucking advocates had pushed for Congress to simply restore the 2005 restart rules, which allow unlimited use of the restart provision and do not require two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods in any restart, as was called for in the 2011 rule.
The American Trucking Associations welcomed word of the new measure. “ATA thanks Congress for including what should be a permanent fix to the hours-of-service restart in this Continuing Resolution, and we look forward to its final passage into law to resolve this issue,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.
“Reverting back to the pre-July 2013 restart shifts the emphasis back to safety by removing flawed data from the rulemaking process,” he added. “The entire industry will now be able to comply with this rule thanks to a common sense approach championed by a bipartisan group of legislators.”
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said he introduced the Continuing Resolution to prevent a government shutdown and continue funding for federal programs and services until April 28, 2017. “This legislation is just a band aid, but a critical one, Rogers said in a Dec. statement. “It will give the next Congress the time to complete the annual Appropriations process, and in the meantime, take care of immediate national funding needs.”
It is expected that the House will try to pass the measure on Dec. 8 and the Senate will act on it the next day.