April 3, 2014 11:30 AM, EDT
Key House Members Ask GAO to Evaluate HOS Rule’s 34-Hour Restart Provision
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

Two leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have requested that the Government Accountability Office evaluate the studies used to support the 34-hour restart provision in the federal hours-of-service rule.

“Because it is important that federal regulations be based on full and fair scientific research, proper data and analyses, and operational testing, we request the GAO evaluate these studies,” said the April 2 letter from committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), who is chairman of the panel’s highways and transit subcommittee.

The restart provision, which took effect with the new HOS rule July 1, requires drivers to rest for 34 consecutive hours that must include two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

In adopting the new restart provision, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said studies showed that cumulative fatigue was damaging to drivers and that to stem such fatigue, the drivers need two consecutive rest periods.

Before the rule took effect, drivers were allowed to restart their workweek in such a way that they could be on the job six days a week.

The 34-hour restart has been criticized by carriers as causing productivity losses, and some drivers have complained that it cuts into their earnings.

American Trucking Associations said it backed the leaders’ call for GAO to look at the rule.

“We appreciate chairmen Shuster and Petri’s leadership on this important truck safety and operational issue,” ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki said in a statement.

“ATA believes any new requirements affecting millions of professional drivers must be based on a sound research foundation, good facts and relevant data analyses. . . . ATA looks forward to GAO’s evaluation of the studies at issue,” Osiecki said.

Shuster said in a statement “concerns have been raised that these regulatory changes may have been enacted without proper data or analysis, and if the [Obama] administration is going to change the rules on truck drivers, we need to know that the changes were thoroughly vetted and will improve safety.”

“We need to make sure the requirements are based on sound facts and actually improve safety rather than just overwhelm the industry with another onerous regulation,” Petri said in the joint statement.