Congress currently is negotiating two provisions related to truck driver hours-of-service requirements.
The first involves the omission of technical language in the fiscal 2016 funding law that essentially would eliminate the 34-hour restart provision of the Hours-of-Service Rule if a congressionally mandated study of the restart provision fails to show safety benefits.
The second relates to states' authority to impose mandatory rest and meal breaks on top of federal hours-of-service regulations.
The Omnibus funding measure signed by the President in December 2015 suspends a portion of the hours-of-service regulation; it did not, however, specify that the industry would continue to operate under the old restart rules pending the conclusions of a study examining operational, safety, health and fatigue aspects of the restart provision compared with prior law. Without this language, the ability of drivers to take a 34-hour rest could go away and the industry could be forced to revert to weekly work limits of 60 hours in seven days and 70 hours in eight days.
The trucking industry, including the American Trucking Associations, Truckload Carriers Association and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, maintain that it was never the intention of lawmakers to do away with the 34-hour restart.
California Meal Break
A provision introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) seeks to block a California meal-break law, enacted in 2011, that requires employers to provide a “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours and a second “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for those who work more than 10 hours a day. The rest and meal break provision introduced by Rep. Denham would prevent states from passing laws that require trucking companies to set rest and meal breaks for their drivers.
Leading the opposition to the provision is Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who has long supported California's mandatory meal-break law. Sen. Boxer has called it a “terrible, anti-safety, anti-worker provision” and a “poison pill” with no place in the FAA bill. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) is also against the provision. She tried unsuccessfully to strip the provision from the bill during the committee markup, arguing that states should be allowed to set meal and rest break standards as seen fit.
Proponents of Rep. Denham's provision, including the American Trucking Associations (ATA), argue that the interstate trucking industry needs national regulatory uniformity, and that a patchwork of state break requirements would be inefficient and ultimately reduce safety.
A long-term FAA reauthorization bill represents the most likely legislative vehicle for both hours-of-service provisions. However that effort has stalled, and Congress is expected to pass a short-term FAA extension while it continues to negotiate a long-term bill. NATSO will continue to update members on these issues.
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