The 34-hour restart provision of the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules for truck drivers that went into effect 18 months ago has been temporarily suspended, thanks to an amendment included in the recent budget legislation.
The restart portion of the rules was immediately suspended on Dec. 16 when President Obama signed the omnibus appropriations bill. The suspension will continue until at least Sept. 30, 2015. As soon as the legislation was passed, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said it was working to make sure that the 12,000 state and federal motor carrier enforcement personnel were prepared to revert back to the previous restart.
The most problematic part of the new HOS rules FMCSA implemented in 2013, the restart provision is suspended while DOT performs a research study on its impact that Congress mandated in the same budget legislation.
Since it went into effect the new restart restrictions have been blamed for a 3%-7% reduction in trucking productivity, which came at the same time an improving economy and worsening driver shortage combined to shrink industry capacity. According to the trucking industry research firm FTR, the change will immediately boost industry productivity by 2%.
What Congress ended is the 1 am-5 am provision and the 168-hour rule DOT imposed on the old 34-hour restart provision that was in effect since 2003.
Now drivers can restart their weekly hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty, regardless of whether or not it includes two periods of time between 1 am and 5 am. The driver also can use the restart more than once a week if needed.
Industry groups that had sought the change had praise for the action and for the legislators who had sponsored it, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “We have known since the beginning that the federal government did not properly evaluate the potential impacts of the changes it made in July 2013,” says American Trucking Associations president Bill Graves. “Now, thanks to the hard work of Senator Collins and many others, we have a common sense solution. Suspending these restrictions until all the proper research can be done is a reasonable step.”
ATA chairman Duane Long, chairman of Longistics (Raleigh, N.C.), says, “Fleets from around the country, including mine, tried to tell FMCSA that the previous rules were working just fine and that these new restart provisions were going to cause unintended problems. Those warnings went unheeded at the time, but we’re glad Senator Collins and others in Congress listened to us and that we’ll finally get a full examination of the potential impacts of these rules.”
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association executive vice president Todd Spencer says, “OOIDA and small-business truckers applaud the House and Senate for rejecting scare tactics and misinformation and maintaining the bipartisan Hours-of-Service provision.”
Spencer adds, “Small business truckers know from personal experience that current restart restrictions compromise safety by forcing them onto the roads during the most congested and dangerous hours of morning traffic.”