34-hour restart fix left out of FAA extension bill

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Updated Mar 13, 2016

highway 34 signThe House’s Transportation Committee released March 10 legislation to extend for three months the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorization, and notably absent from the bill’s text is any language intended to clarify the potential damage done by a December-passed government funding bill.

Reports earlier this week hinted that legislators and trucking lobbyists may try to slide into the aviation bill a few lines to undo a provision in the 2016 fiscal year appropriations bill that could, depending on the findings of a pending FMCSA study, remove the 34-hour restart provision from the hours of service regulations entirely. But the bill includes nothing on hours-of-service or the 34-hour restart.

The December-enacted funding law only meant to preclude two currently suspended 34-hour restart provisions — the once-per-week limit to the restart’s use and the stipulation that it include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods — from going back into effect following the agency’s release of its study.

But if FMCSA’s Congressionally required study is released and shows that drivers operating under those two provisions are less safe than drivers not abiding by the two provisions, the 34-hour restart would go away entirely, according to the letter of the law.

Trucking lobbyists have been mum on a potential fix, as have lawmakers. The FAA extension must be passed by March 31 to prevent the FAA from halting operations, so the bill was considered an appropriate place, given its transportation roots, to include the 34-hour restart clarifications.

The Senate has yet to release its version of an extension, though it may stick with the three-month extension the House introduced March 10.

The longer, more robust FAA authorization bill, for which the extension is meant to give lawmakers more time to hammer out, may also be an avenue for Congress to fix the restart slip-up.

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