House releases bill that would restore 34-hour restart rules from 2011, halt FMCSA’s carrier rating rule

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Updated May 18, 2016

2015 11 03 16 26The U.S. House’s Appropriations Committee released May 17  a 2017 fiscal year DOT funding bill that would make permanent 2014’s “restart rollback” by reverting hours-of-service rules for truckers to those in effect in December 2011. The bill’s hours provisions only relate to the 34-hour restart changes put in place in 2013 and retains the 30-minute break requirement that also went into effect that year. They would, however, permanently remove the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirements and the once-per-week limit.

The House bill does not tie the changes to the 34-hour restart study currently being conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a departure from trucking-specific provisions cleared by Congress in recent years.

The measure is also a departure from the plan floated in the Senate’s DOT funding bill, which ties the future of hours of service rules to the FMCSA study’s conclusions and could set a new 73-hour a week cap on truckers’ hours-of-service limits.

The House bill, meanwhile, simply reinstates the 34-hour restart regulations in effect on December 26, 2011, effectively nullifying the results of agency’s study and its conclusions. The bill is set to be considered in a House subcommittee on Wednesday, May 18.

The bill also halts FMCSA’s work on its January-proposed Safety Fitness Determination rule until the reforms called for in 2015’s FAST Act highway bill are implemented. Major trucking groups and some lawmakers have taken issue in recent months with the agency’s reliance on the Safety Measurement System percentile rankings. Congress directed FMCSA to pull the SMS BASIC rankings from public view and to not use them to rate carriers until it develops and implements reforms to the system. The agency proceeded with its SFD rule regardless.

The Senate version does not include a measure related to the Safety Fitness Determination rule. Its has already cleared committee and has been brought to the Senate floor for a vote, but no vote has been held and little debate has taken place.

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The House version may present a clearer, less controversial path for hours of service. The Senate plan drew ire from nearly all sides when it came to light last month. Safety groups and trucking groups have both taken issue with the HOS changes, with some arguing the measures are too confusing of a change and others arguing the new rules are too generous to the trucking industry.

President Obama this week also threatened to veto the legislation, partially citing its opposition to the hours of service changes as reason why. As the House legislation is fresh, the president has not yet released a policy statement on the bill.