House bill restores 2011 hours of service rules, kills Safety Fitness Determination rulemaking

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highway 34 signThe U.S. House Appropriations Committee released May 17 the text of a 2017 fiscal year DOT funding bill that would make permanent 2014’s “restart rollback” by reverting hours-of-service rules for truckers to those in effect in December 2011, meaning no 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirements and no weekly limit to the restart’s use. 

The measure does not tie the changes to the 34-hour restart study currently being conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a departure from trucking-specific provisions cleared by Congress in recent years.

The measure is also a departure from the plan floated in the Senate’s DOT funding bill, which ties the future of hours of service rules to the FMCSA study’s conclusions and could set a new 73-hour a week cap on truckers’ hours-of-service limits.

The House bill, meanwhile, would simply reinstate the 34-hour restart regulations in effect on December 26, 2011, effectively nullifying the results of agency’s study and its conclusions and delivering on one of Overdrive‘s top preferred changes to the hours of service as noted in the 2015 hours of service wish list survey. (The 30-minute break, however, would remain a requirement in the regs.) The bill is set to be considered in a House subcommittee on Wednesday, May 18.

The bill also halts FMCSA’s work on its January-proposed Safety Fitness Determination rule until the reforms called for in 2015’s FAST Act highway bill are implemented. Major trucking groups and some lawmakers have taken issue in recent months with the agency’s reliance on some of the architecture of the CSA Safety Measurement System. Congress directed FMCSA to pull the SMS BASIC percentile rankings and alerts from public view and to not use them in any fashion to rate carriers until it develops and implements reforms to the system. The agency proceeded with its SFD rule regardless, arguing it didn’t violate FAST Act provisions.

The Senate version does not include a measure related to the Safety Fitness Determination rule. That version of the funding bill has already cleared committee and has been brought to the Senate floor for a vote — no vote has yet been held, and little debate has taken place.

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The House version may present a clearer, less controversial path for hours of service. The Senate plan drew ire from nearly all sides when it came to light last month. Safety groups and trucking groups have both taken issue with the HOS changes, with some arguing the measures are too confusing of a change and others arguing the new rules are too generous to the trucking industry.

President Obama this week also threatened to veto the legislation, partially citing opposition to the hours of service changes as reason why.

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