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Congress again forgoes hours of service fix in latest appropriations bill

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If lawmakers fail to act, the 34-hour restart faces two options: Removal entirely from hours of service code or stuck within 2013’s unpopular hours reform.

Both chambers of Congress on Wednesday passed a short-term spending bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 9. The stopgap spending law wards off a government shutdown, but the bill — dubbed a “clean continuing resolution” from its onset — did not include a provision to clarify the future of hours of service rules pertaining to truckers’ use of a 34-hour restart.

The measure will now likely be taken up in the 2017 Department of Transportation appropriations bill or a similar omnibus spending package for the 2017 fiscal year.

Some major news outlets had reported that Congress was eyeing the the must-pass appropriations bill as a means to pass other so-called “riders,” like the measure to correct a 2015-passed bill that put the 34-hour restart in jeopardy. Some reports specifically mentioned the hours fix as a rider likely to be tacked on to the government funding bill.

Congress to resume work on hours of service fix, CSA issues this fall

Congress to resume work on hours of service fix, CSA issues this fall

Hours of service rules face an uncertain and potentially more restrictive future, especially for truck operators who utilize a 34-hour hours restart regularly. Congress is ...

However, with time waning and other controversial measures swirling around the bill (such as $1 billion to fight Zika and a major Flint, Mich., water relief package), lawmakers skipped padding the short-term bill with policy riders.

Time will be tight for lawmakers to pass their 2017 appropriations bills and hammer out an hours-of-service provision, as both chambers are now in recess until after the Nov. 8 election.

They’ll have just a month to knock out nearly a dozen appropriations bills. Lawmakers have treated the appropriations process similarly in recent years, passing mid-December omnibus spending packages to fund the government through the next fiscal year.

Hours of service — specifically, rules surrounding the 34-hour restart — saw play in both December 2014- and 2015-enacted appropriations legislation.

House set to consider bill to reform hours of service, block Safety Fitness rule, nix state-required trucker breaks

House set to consider bill to reform hours of service, block Safety Fitness rule, nix state-required trucker breaks

The legislation would permanently bring back 34-hour restart rules in place in 2011, along with barring FMCSA from pursuing its January-proposed Safety Fitness Determination and ...

The 34-hour restart also saw play in both the House and the Senate earlier this year. The House floated a plan in its 2017 DOT appropriations bill to simply revert 34-hour restart regulations to those in place before July 1, 2013, meaning truckers’ restarts do not need to include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods. The House’s plan cleared committee but did not yet receive a vote on the House floor.

The Senate, meanwhile, passed a bill earlier this year that ties the future of the 34-hour restart to a 2014-initiated FMCSA study. The Senate version sets a new 73-hour cap on the amount of hours truckers can remain on-duty in a rolling seven-day period, should the Senate find that pre-2013 hours-of-service rules are more effective at managing fatigue and safety.

If FMCSA’s study finds that 2013 rules are safer, those rules will simply go back into effect, meaning truckers’ 34-hour restarts will again have to include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and will be limited to use to once per week.


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James Jaillet is the News Editor for CCJ and Overdrive. Reach him at