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Legislators ask Obama to withdraw hours rewrite
President Obama should withdraw the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed hours-of-service revision because its costs would hurt the U.S. economy, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote Oct. 5 in a letter to Obama. “Current rules have led to record low levels of fatalities involving trucks,” Boehner and Cantor wrote, adding that the White House and Congress should work together to prevent a potential “$1 billion in regulatory burden.”
Their letter came two weeks after a similar Sept. 23 letter to Obama from House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica. The Florida Republican wrote that the proposed rule would be an unnecessary and costly regulatory burden on truckers given the improved record of truck safety since the 2008 rule became effective.
Three other Republican committee members signed Mica’s letter: Tennessee’s John Duncan, Highway subcommittee chairman; Pennsylvania’s Bill Schuster, chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials subcommittee; and Missouri’s Sam Graves, committee member and Small Business Committee chairman. Should FMCSA proceed with the new rule, the four House members would weigh options that could include hearings or legislation.
On Aug. 30, Obama responded to Boehner’s request to review pending regulations with compliance costs of more than $1 billion. Seven proposed rules qualified, including the HOS proposal at more than $1 billion and electronic onboard recorders at $2 billion. Soon after issuing that list, Obama withdrew the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone proposal, which would have been by far the costliest at $19 billion to $90 billion.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations have said the proposal is costly and unnecessary since studies indicate safety improvements under the 2008 rule.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) proposed to add language to the transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) that would block the planned changes to the HOS regulations. The measure, Senate Amendment 754, states that “none of the funds made available under this heading may be used to finalize, enforce, or implement the hours-of-service regulations proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on December 29, 2010.”
The trucking industry has used this tactic before to block implementation of an HOS rule. In 2000, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), then a leader on the Transportation Appropriations subcommittee, sponsored similar language to block the Clinton administration’s proposed changes to the HOS rules that were opposed by virtually the whole trucking industry. Ayotte’s measure faces a somewhat tougher challenge than the 2000 effort because the language was not inserted by leadership at the committee level.
In 2009, FMCSA had entered into a settlement agreement with safety advocacy groups and the Teamsters union to revisit the 2008 rule and publish a revised rule. This agreement stipulates if the agency produces a “substantially different” rule from the current one, this “may” eliminate the need for further judicial review.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia originally set the Federal Register publication deadline for July 26, which it later extended to Oct. 28. The agency sent the proposal to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Aug. 11. The Office of Management and Budget was to review it before publication.
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