Editor’s note: The Senate Appropriations Committee passed June 5 the amendment to at least temporarily suspend some of the provisions of last year’s hours of service rule changes. Click here to read coverage of the passage.
Trucking industry stakeholders and lobbyists are asking Congress to suspend for one year two of the key changes implemented to hours of service rules for truck operators: The requirement for two consecutive drive rest periods from a 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during the 34-hour restart and the once-a-week restart restriction.
The American Trucking Associations on Tuesday wrote to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging support for both a proposed Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Restart Study and a one-year suspension of two “unjustified restrictions” on the use of the HOS restart provision.
The plea, to Chairman Barbara Mikulski and Ranking Member Richard Shelby, along with Sens. Patty Murray and Susan Collins of the transportation subcommittee, comes ahead of a Thursday vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development budget package for the 2015 fiscal year.
While the driver restart study, to be based on data derived from electronic logs, has received broad support from both trucking and safety groups, an anticipated amendment to suspend the restart is divisive.
The additional language is expected from Collins, a Maine Republican, and ATA on Tuesday advised its membership to contact senators on the Appropriations committee “ASAP!” to garner support for the HOS suspension.
“These two new restrictions have placed economic hardships on thousands upon thousands of employers, as well as reducing drivers’ wages throughout the motor carrier industry,” writes ATA in its letter.
Regulatory enforcement officials, however, have written committee members to voice concerns.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance “opposes any efforts to rescind or overturn any portion of the current HOS rules, or to defund their enforcement through the appropriations process,”the group said in its letter.
FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro took to the Hill to defend the hours rule and the research behind it.
Speaking before the Senate Commerce transportation subcommittee, she said the results of the hours changes are in line with the “rigorous” and “unprecedented” analysis used to develop the rule, which included an estimated $500 million cost to trucking.
“Yes, there has been an economic impact on the industry. We certainly recognized that that would happen,” she said. “The majority of the impact is on the long-haul, over-the-road, irregular route driver.”
As for the safety benefits, Ferro added that the agency did not have recent crash data, “but we certainly do know that it’s having an impact.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, however, questioned whether the restart rule puts more trucks on the road during congested daytime hours – and was therefore less safe.
“We have not seen that,” Ferro replied, noting that the agency would be collecting data on the matter. “It is an incremental impact and it is far outweighed by the improved driver safety.”
Still, Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, said she was “shocked” by reports she hears from businesses about the rule – “and not just long-haul businesses.”
“You’re gathering data, but what I’m hearing from companies both large and small is that they are going to have to drive more during the day and put more trucks on the road,” Ayotte said. “So by the time we have this data, instead of having done the analysis in advance, we have a situation where we’re not having the impact on safety and we’re having a negative impact on the economy.”
Ferro’s formal testimony, in which she outlines the agency’s safety efforts under MAP-21 – the current highway funding program – as well initiatives from the proposed Obama administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, is here.