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Congress renews ban on new HOS restart rules

The final legislation (H.R. 2029) funding the federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2016 (through Sept. 30, 2016) continues and strengthens a measure in the fiscal 2015 act that bars the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from re-imposing the revised hours-of-service restart provisions that took effect temporarily in July 2013. The so-called omnibus appropriations act was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 18.

The July 2013 restart restrictions required that 34-hour restarts of cumulate duty time include two consecutive 1 a.m.-5 a.m. periods and also disallowed more than one restart every 168 hours. The measure approved by Congress strengthens a provision adopted in the fiscal 2015 funding bill and requires that both FMCSA and the Department of Transportation Inspector General conclude that the revised restart measures result in "statistically significant" improvements in safety, driver health and other goals. The American Trucking Associations praised the language, saying it will make it very difficult for FMCSA to justify re-imposing the new restart provisions.

Other motor-carrier related provisions in the act:

  • Continue to prohibit against regulations increasing levels of minimum financial responsibility

  • Continue to prohibit FMCSA from denying hazmat permits without an opportunity for corrective action

  • Prohibit wireless roadside inspection program until FMCSA meets certain conditions

However, Congress did not include a controversial proposal that would have required all states to accept 33-foot twin trailers instead of the 28-foot doubles currently used in all but a few states. A provision making 33-foot twins legal nationwide initially was in both the House and Senate versions of the DOT appropriations bill, but in recent weeks the Senate twice -- once without any objection -- voted to substantially restrict the ability of DOT to mandate the longer trailers.

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