February 16, 2016 1:00 PM, EST
ATA Working to Avoid Inadvertent Elimination of HOS Restart Rule
An omission in the fiscal 2016 omnibus funding bill would require federal regulators to eliminate an hours-of-service restart rule that took effect in 2013 if a federal study of the rule fails to show it has safety benefits, according to a spokesman for American Trucking Associations. 

“Recently, ATA became aware of a problem with the legislative language in last year's omnibus appropriations bill intended to address concerns about restrictions placed on the 34-hour restart rule — a safety rule that provides an extended rest period for professional truck drivers,” the spokesman said.

In December, President Obama signed into law a fiscal 2016 omnibus funding bill that included provisions related to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's restart rule. The law requires that a study of the restart rule show how the rule offers improvements “related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health,” as well as work schedules. 

The report language from the omnibus bill says: “Section 133 suspends a portion of the hours-of-service regulation unless the [secretary of transportation] and the Inspector General find that the final report meets all statutory requirements and establishes improved outcomes.”

But the final bill did not reflect the restart provisions of the HOS regulation that went into effect July 1, 2013, and instead suspends an aspect of the HOS rule, non-date specific.

“The impact of the omission is that if the congressionally directed study shows that there were not safety and other benefits to the restart restrictions, then the entire restart — the ability to take a 34-hour rest and reset your weekly clock — goes away,” the ATA spokesman said. “We are working with lawmakers to reach a solution that keeps America’s freight moving safely and efficiently.”

“The glitch in the legislative language has the potential to put this safety rule at risk,” the spokesman added.

The law had been intended to address only the 34-hour restart having to do with the consecutive 1 a.m.-to-5 a.m. rest periods and that it be limited to once a week. Those regulations have been suspended since enactment of a fiscal 2015 funding bill. 

The secretary’s directive would result in relying on the rolling recap of weekly work limits of 60 hours in seven days and 70 hours in eight days.