U.S. Senate Votes to Possibly Suspend Restart Rule

GRAIN VALLEY, MO— The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 21-9 in favor of suspending the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service (HOS) rule while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) studies the rule’s impact.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, commented: “It has become clear that the rules have had unintended consequences that are not in best interest of carriers, shippers and the public.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a national organization that represents small-business truckers, thanked the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for passing the amendment to suspend the new restart provisions in HOS regulations for one year.

“Truckers have long pointed out the negative impacts of the 2013 changes on their ability to get rest, stay out of busy city traffic, spend time at home, and make a family-supporting income,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

The amendment also says that FMCSA funding will not include money to enforce the restart rule that took effect last June as part of the new HOS rules.

The amendment suspends the two-night rest requirement and the once-a-week limitation on the restart. The suspension starts after the bill is passed and FMCSA posts public notice, and last until September 30, 2015, or when FMCSA finishes the study.

During that time, the old restart provision is in effect, which means drivers are not required to be off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on two straight nights during their restart, and the restriction limiting use of the restart to once a week.

The study must compare the work schedules and fatigue of two groups of drivers: those operating under the pre-2013 provision, and those operating under the new provision.

“The agency cannot simply regulate based upon guesses,” Spencer said. “And it should not make a regulatory decision and then create data after the fact that supports the decision. Sadly, the problems with the hours-of-service rulemaking are common within the FMCSA.”

E-Log mandate

The bill suspending the 34-hour restart rule also sets a deadline for the FMCSA to publish its electronic logging device mandate by January 30, 2015.

The agency was supposed to finish the rule last October but still is in the midst of the rulemaking process.

The FMCSA recently extended the comment period on its proposal from May 27 until June 26 at the request of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which represents state police and other enforcement interests. The Alliance said it needs more time to understand the impact of the technology the agency is proposing.

The mandate will require drivers who use paper logs to eventually switch to electronic logs. It also covers technical standards for the devices and the supporting documents that regulators need to confirm compliance. And it sets requirements to ensure that electronic logs are not used to harass drivers.

The bill says that researchers studying the effects of the 34-hour restart rule should use data collected through ELDs that meet the requirements of the mandate. 

With files from Oliver Patton.

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