The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 30-0 April 21 to advance a $56 billion fiscal 2017 transportation funding bill. The legislation contains a potential fix to 2015 legislation that omitted key technical language required to keep the 34-hour restart provision of the Hours-of-Service Rule in effect pending the results of a Congressionally mandated study. This highly technical issue has been a top priority for trucking interests throughout 2016.
The FY2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill passed by the Appropriations Committee would retain the drivers' ability to reset their workweeks by taking an extended 34-hour off-duty period and cap the allowable time truck drivers may work -- including loading and unloading their trailers -- at 73 hours per week. The bill also would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to advance a rule on speed limiters to cap speeds for trucks.
The fiscal 2017 funding legislation would provide nearly $900 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $644 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, $525 million for infrastructure grants and $259 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
It is unclear when the Senate will take the measure up for debate.
The trucking industry has been seeking a legislative fix to the hours-of-service 34-hour restart provision since December, when the President signed an Omnibus funding measure that suspended a portion of the hours-of-service regulation. That legislation, however, failed to specify that the industry would continue to operate under the old restart rule pending the conclusions of a study examining operational, safety, health and fatigue aspects of the restart provision compared with prior law. It has been interpreted as requiring drivers to revert back to an older, more arcane and less manageable regime. It is considered by most to have been a drafting error in the legislation.
Without the legislative language included in the appropriations bill, drivers' ability to take a 34-hour rest would go away and the industry would be forced to revert to weekly work limits of 60 hours in seven days and 70 hours in eight days.
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.
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