Undoing potential 34-hour restart death knell could be delayed for months

By James Jaillet, CCJ News, March 15, 2016
Following the introduction of two federal aviation bills last week — both mum on fixing the 34-hour restart problem created by a 2016 government funding bill in December — the trucking industry may have to wait months, if not longer, for resolution of the issue, says the Trucking Alliance’s Lane Kidd, who spoke to CCJ last week.
The legal hang-up regarding truckers’ hours of service rules could kill the 34-hour restart entirely, but Kidd says there’s pressure on U.S. lawmakers to forgo a fix in the current Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization work underway in Congress currently. Lawmakers instead may wait until beginning work on 2017 Department of Transportation appropriations bills to take up the matter, he said.
In recent years, passage of DOT appropriations bills has been delayed until December. If Congress continues that trend this year, and Kidd proves right about Congress excluding clarifying language in the FAA authorization bills, the trucking industry may be waiting 9 more months for lawmakers to rectify their December 2015-enacted mess up.
Complicating the whole matter, too, is the pending issuance of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s report on its 2015 field study of truckers and their daily and weekly schedules.
The same 2014 law that suspended parts of the 34-hour restart regulations — the requirement that a restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and the once-per-week limit of the restart’s use — also called on FMCSA to study hundreds of truckers and their schedules to determine whether those two provisions should be reinstated.
The study is completed and is currently undergoing the approval process, Acting FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling told Congress earlier this year.
If the study is released and shows that pre-2013 hours of service rules proved better for trucker fatigue and safety, the 34-hour restart would be removed from hours of service rules, per the letter of the 2016 government funding law, meaning truckers wouldn’t be able to use it if they wanted/needed to.
If the report reveals otherwise — that the July 2013-enacted hours of service rule was better for safety and fatigue — the 34-hour restart will remain in place, albeit with the provisions that it include the two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and that it only be used once a work week.
FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne told CCJ this week that the potential effects of the report’s conclusions will have no bearing on the DOT’s decision to issue it.
Kidd, whose Trucking Alliance was an opponent of the suspension of the rules in the first place, says FAA work ongoing this week in the Senate may reveal more on lawmakers intentions.

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