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  • Henry Seaton

Congress mistakenly voids 34-hour restart

A provision in the big government funding bill approved in December that was intended to continue blocking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's latest changes to the 34-hour restart in the hours-of-service rules actually, as written, blocks the entire 34-hour restart.

The intent of Sec. 131 of the final legislation was to prohibit FMCSA from re-imposing the revised HOS restart provisions that took effectt in July 2013 but were blocked by Congress a little over a year later.

The July 2013 restart restrictions required that 34-hour restarts of cumulative duty time include two consecutive 1 a.m.-5 a.m. periods and also disallowed more than one restart every 168 hours.

The measure approved by Congress in December was supposed to strengthen the provision adopted in the fiscal 2015 funding bill by requiring that both FMCSA and the Department of Transportation Inspector General conclude that the revised restart measures result in "statistically significant" improvements in safety, driver health and other goals. Instead, the provision was written so that the entire 34-hour start goes away until FMCSA and DOT IG reach that conclusion.

Despite what the legislation actually states, FMCSA has not ordered any change in the current rules, and trucking industry groups generally are advising their members to continue operating the way they have been.

In a March 4 update to members, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said that ATA "has been actively working with Congressional staff in an attempt to find a satisfactory, bipartisan resolution to the problem created by the legislative glitch." He said that based on meetings with several members of Congress "we continue to be optimistic" about a near-term solution. "Getting to a satisfactory solution is the first step, and then working with the right Congressional Committees and Members of Congress to get it enacted is the critically important second step."

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