Congressional spending bill would suspend some hours-of-service provisions, require FMCSA to further study rules’ impacts

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Updated Dec 12, 2014

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Update, 12/12: The House has passed the bill. Click here to read CCJ’s coverage.

Update, 12/11: Though certain elements of the 1,600-page omnibus spending bill have caused members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle to voice their disapproval of the bill’s passage, the bill is still expected to clear both chambers of Congress this week. However, some reports have indicated Congress is preparing a stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown, in case the omnibus does not come to a vote or does not pass. If that happens, the passage of the omnibus — and the language to rollback the restart provisions — could be in jeopardy.

After nearly a year and a half of asking Congress for it, the trucking industry might have gotten its wish Tuesday evening: A potential rollback of some of the more restrictive elements of FMCSA’s 2013-implemented hours-of-service rule for truck operators.

Congress likely will send a bill to the White House in the coming days that includes a provision that will put a stay on enforcement of two key elements of the 2013 rule: The requirement that a driver’s 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and the provision limiting the use of the restart to one time per week. The suspension of enforcement will last at least until Sept. 30, 2015.

If the $1.1 trillion spending bill — which prevents a government shutdown and funds most government departments through next September — passes both chambers of Congress and President Obama signs the bill into law, enforcement of those provisions shall be halted immediately, according to the bill.

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, as the bill is called, was produced by the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday night, and it has received praise from the Senate Appropriations committee, too.

It is said to be a deal crafted by the top brass from both chambers of Congress and is expected to be passed by both chambers this week.

In addition to suspending enforcement of the two restart provisions, the bill also directs the Department of Transportation to initiate a “study of the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts of the restart provisions,” according to the bill.

It requires the DOT to submit to Congress its conclusions from the study, which the bill says will show if the 2013 HOS rule “provide[s] a greater net benefit for the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts” than previous hours regulations.

The bill also requires the DOT Inspector General to oversee the agency’s study.

The hours-of-service suspension provision was reported to be a point of contention among members of Congress, but it ended up making the cut in the bill’s final version.

The Senate Appropriations committee had voted in June to include the provisions — the so-called Collins Amendment — in its version of the annual appropriations bill for the DOT.

Squabbling between Senate leaders, however, prevented the bill from making it to the Senate floor, where the Collins Amendment was expected to face opposition.

Both the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association — among other trucking groups — support the Collins Amendment’s inclusion and implementation.