House committee clears DOT bill that would lengthen hours-of-service rollback, bar FMCSA from upping insurance minimums

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Updated May 16, 2015

big-road-elogThe U.S. House’s Appropriations Committee this week passed 30-21 a 2016 DOT funding bill that would, if passed, keep in place the current hours-of-service suspension until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can justify the HOS rule changes put in place in July 2013.

The $55 billion bill would also prevent FMCSA from continuing a rulemaking to raise the current minimum amount of liability insurance required to be held by motor carriers.

The bill still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president to become law. The Senate has not produced its version of a 2016 DOT appropriations bill.

The currently suspended hours-of-service rules include the requirement that a 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and the once-per-week limit of the restart’s use. They were suspended in December following passage of a 2015 government funding bill.

Under the bill now in consideration in the House, suspension of those hours provisions would stay in place until FMCSA completes a field study required by Congress in the 2014 bill that suspended the rules.

The study must also show that drivers who operate under the 2013-implemented rules “demonstrated statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity and work schedules” when compared to drivers operating under pre-2013 rules.

The current law dictates the restart rollback stay in effect until FMCSA produces its report or until Sept. 30, 2015 — whichever is later. The new bill, however, would make reimplementation contingent solely on FMCSA’s study.

The House’s 2016 DOT-funding bill would also block FMCSA’s potential rule to increase the current $750,000 minimum amount of financial responsibility (liability insurance) required by current law.

FMCSA published in November 2014 an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking for industry input on current minimums and the potential increase. The current limit, set in the 1980s, still covers 99 percent of all truck-involved crashes, says ATA, OOIDA and other trucking stakeholder groups.

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Safety advocates and FMCSA, however, have argued the limits need to be increased to keep up with inflation and rising medical costs.

Trucking groups also argue that many carriers already have liability coverage of $1 million or more, and many shippers also already require coverage of $1 million.

A separate highway funding bill is also expected in the coming days, which could contain trucking-related provisions.