Senate measure seeks to block hours rule

Updated Oct 21, 2011

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is proposing to add language to the transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) that would block the planned changes to truck driver hours-of-service 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 hours 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 hours rules that were strongly opposed by virtually the whole trucking industry. In that case, however, it was possible that FMCSA would not have had time to issue a final rule anyway. This time, it is widely assumed that the final rule is weeks away from adoption.

Ayotte’s measure faces a somewhat tougher challenge than the 2000 effort because the language was not inserted by leadership at the committee level. The Senate is expected to consider the transportation appropriations bill within the next week or so.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent a letter to Ayotte asking the senator to drop the measure. “The amendment would prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from applying the most comprehensive and up-to-date data and analysis to the issue of driver fatigue and allowable hours of service,” LaHood wrote. “The final rule, if put in jeopardy, potentially undermines the entire regulatory process.”