The U.S. Senate today approved by 63 to 36 vote legislation that continues funding for the federal government through April 28, 2017, including a provision that ensures that the 34-hour restart provision will continue as currently enforced in the driver hours-of-service regulations unless an ongoing study upholds the benefits of the restart in a number of areas. The House had already passed the legislation.
Barring certain findings by the study, the measure permanently blocks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's July 1, 2013, change in the HOS rules that required that the restart include two consecutive 1 a.m.-to-5 a.m. periods and that the restart be used only once in a consecutive 168-hour period. Congress had suspended enforcement of those changes for several years pending an ongoing study of the effects of the restart changes.
Under the legislation, the July 1, 2013, restrictions could be reimposed only if the FMCSA study demonstrates that the change represented a "statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules" for drivers who operated under those rules. Also, that finding would have to be ratified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General.
The HOS restart provision is the only measure related to trucking addressed by the so-called continuing resolution. The House version of the DOT appropriations bill also included measures that would have blocked FMCSA's proposed rule on carrier safety fitness determinations; prohibited states from regulating commercial driver's meal and rest breaks; and withheld funding for a wireless roadside inspection program unless certain conditions are met. The Senate DOT funding bill would have required a final rule within six months mandating speed limiting devices on heavy trucks. Because Congress must approve further government by the end of April it is possible that those measures could be considered at that time.