Senate skips hours fix in bill aimed at preventing government shutdown

Unless lawmakers act, hours-of-service rules face an uncertain future.Unless lawmakers act, hours-of-service rules face an uncertain future.

The Senate unveiled Sept. 22 a short-term government spending bill meant to stave off a government shutdown by funding the government through early December, but the bill does not include any provisions related to hours-of-service reform, as had been rumored.

Reports indicated lawmakers would use the bill to fix a “legislative glitch” initiated last December that could remove the 34-hour restart from hours-of-service regulations, meaning truckers could not use a restart if they wanted. But the Senate bill, made public Thursday, includes no such fix.

The Senate and the House have floated proposals this year to clear up the problem, but legislative gridlock has prevented either chamber’s legislation from passing.

The short-term spending bill offered a must-pass avenue for lawmakers to rewrite last year’s legislation. Given the high stakes of the legislation, however, lawmakers sought a “clean resolution,” free of riders like an hours-of-service fix. The House still may propose its own version of a government funding bill, meaning there’s still a chance the short-term funding bill could include hours of service-related provisions.

Both the Senate and the House must pass an appropriations bill before Sept. 30, when government funding is set to run dry. If lawmakers do not act, non-essential government operations would shut down until lawmakers pass funding legislation and the president signs it.

Likewise, both the House and the Senate must pass an hours-of-service measure or subject the trucking industry to one of two options: A return to 2013 hours-of-service rules, in which truckers’ restarts must include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods, or a return to 2004 rules, in which truckers would not have a 34-hour restart at their disposal.