Agency needs to justify hours rule that’s ‘purely ideological,’ congressman says

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Updated Nov 20, 2013

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Rep. Richard HannaRep. Richard Hanna

In leading up to the House hearing set for Thursday— when the House’s Small Business Committee will hear testimony on the impacts of the new hours-of-service rules — Overdrive had the exclusive opportunity to speak with Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), who’s been backing a delay of the new hours rule since July and is the sponsor of a bill currently in the House that would do just that.

In a brief phone interview, Hanna said he and his colleagues are, in short, seeking answers as to why the agency allowed the hours-of-service rules to be implemented before completing the study required by the MAP-21 law and what justification or backing they have for the rules given that the field study results still aren’t completed.

“We don’t think they can [prove they’re right],” Hanna said, referring to FMCSA and its administrator, Anne Ferro, who is also set to testify Thursday at the hearing. “It’s easy to live in an ivory tower and lay down a bunch of rules and regulations, but they’re required to come back to us and say the savings is worth the cost.”

Hanna said he expects testimony from truckers and trucking companies Thursday that show the rules don’t work. The hearing will also give Ferro the opportunity to hear from those “living in the real world” and who are affected by the rules, Hanna said.

“If they want to write a rule, they should be able to defend it,” Hanna said. “It shouldn’t be a purely ideological rule, and I’m going to maintain that it is until they finish the study.”

The bill he’s currently sponsoring in the House would, if passed, allow drivers to operate under the pre-July 1 hours regulations, at least for a time. The bill requires that the Government Accountability Office perform an assessment of the methodology FMCSA used to craft the 34-hour restart provisions. The July 1 hours rules could not be re-implemented until six months after the GAO submitted that report to Congress.

Hanna said nothing is likely to happen by year’s end with the bill, but he hopes to gain more co-sponsors and rally more support for the bill in hopes of having it see action after the start of the new year. Once his colleagues have the chance to examine it, Hanna said, the bill should gain support. “The No. 1 business of America is business. What the hell are we doing to ourselves?” Hanna added that the hours changes are another example of “America making itself less competitive for no good end.”

Renee Gamela, Hanna’s press secretary, said any truck drivers who would like to rally support should call their representative to tell them how the bill has affected their business or operation. 

Hanna has been something of an outspoken advocate for derailing the new hours rule — without the required study — since July, when he first proposed an amendment to a larger transportation bill that would have undone the July 1 rule.

He also was one of the leaders in writing a letter to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx — signed by 51 members of the House — questioning him about why FMCSA hadn’t completed the required study, which was due to Congress in March of this year, three months before the new rules took effect. He then hinted then he wanted to bring Congress into the mix in possibly overturning the hours rule.

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