Congress successfully acted to prevent the situation of the 34-hour restart being removed as a tool for truck drivers to use to manage their weekly on-duty clocks. However, the future of regulations surrounding the use of a 34-hour restart is still up in the air.
A short-term funding bill signed into law by President Obama on Friday, the same day it passed the Senate and a day after it passed the House, ties the 34-hour restart’s use to a study underway by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency’s study was mandated by Congress in December 2014 and seeks to determine whether truckers operating under July 2013-effective regulations are better rested than those operating under regulations in place before July 2013 (and since December 2014, when Congress rolled back 2013 regs).
FMCSA is producing the study in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Researchers are studying between 200 and 300 truckers operating under their normal schedules. Half are required to abide by July 2013-instituted regulations, meaning they have to include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods in their 34-hour restarts and can only use the restart once per week.
The other half can use the restart without those restrictions.
The study’s results will dictate whether the July 2013-enacted regs will go back into effect. The law says truckers operating under July 2013 rules must “demonstrate statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules, in comparison to…drivers who operated under the restart provisions in effect on June 30, 2013,” for such rules to go back into effect.
FMCSA and VTTI said early last year they would look at drivers’ schedules, crashes, near-crashes, crash-relevant events, operator fatigue/alertness and short-term health when making the determination about which regulations should become permanent.
FMCSA boss Scott Darling said earlier this year the data gathering phase was completed. FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne said this week the report is “under departmental review.”
Once the report is submitted, it must be filed with the DOT Inspector General to verify and then Congress. The 34-hour restart regulations dictated by the study will take effect “the date [the DOT] submits the final report to…” Congress.