Hours controversy continues as Senate set to vote on measure to restore 2013 34-hour restart rules

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Updated May 19, 2016

night truck stopAn amendment set to come to the Senate floor this week would, if made law, bring back regulations requiring truckers’ 34-hour restart to include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and limit the restart’s use to once a week.

The amendment, obtained by Overdrive May 18, was filed Tuesday, the same day the House released a bill that would essentially do the opposite: Permanently nix the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirements and the once-weekly limit.

The amendment, filed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would be added to the Senate’s 2017 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill, which was brought to the Senate floor last week.

It would do away with the Senate’s previous plan included in the bill, which could have placed a new 73-hour limit on truckers’ weekly on-duty time. The Senate’s previous plan could have also restored the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirements, like Blumenthal’s amendment does, though such a reversal in hours rules would have been dictated by the results of a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study currently in the works.

Like the House plan floated Tuesday, Blumenthal’s amendment would effectively nullify the results of the study and its impact on hours of service regulations. However, unlike the House plan, it takes the opposite approach: Instead of reverting back to 2011 rules on a permanent basis, it would revert back to restart rules that took effect July 1, 2013.

The 2013 provisions have not been enforced since December 2014. Their reimplementation remained contingent on the results of the agency’s study.

The push this year for hours reform by Congress comes in response to a so-called “legislative glitch” made law in December 2015. That law’s language on hours of service could remove the 34-hour restart option from truck drivers’ disposal, depending on the results of the aforementioned FMCSA study.

To ward off such a scenario, Congress must again take up hours of service in some way. Lawmakers are using the 2017 DOT funding bills as the vehicle for the change.

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For Blumenthal’s amendment to become law, it must be passed by the Senate. The Senate’s bill as a whole must then be voted on and passed. The House must also pass the bill and the hours language as it is in the Senate bill. The more conservative U.S. House, however, may be more reluctant to pass the measure, likely choosing to stick with its provision to restore 2011 restart regulations.

The Senate could take up the Blumenthal amendment this week. Stay tuned for more.