June 16, 2014 10:00 AM, EDT

Booker, Menendez Aim to Repeal HOS Suspension

Booker and Menendez/Bloomberg

New Jersey’s senators said June 16 they will lead a coordinated effort to undo a provision in a fiscal 2015 transportation funding bill that calls for the one-year suspension of last year’s changes to the hours-of-service restart rules.

The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, which includes the provision, is expected to be debated on the Senate floor as early as June 17, according to Senate floor managers.

Speaking to reporters June 16, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker said they plan to target the proposal that would specifically lift a restriction that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 34-hour restart rule be used only once within a seven-day period, and suspend the requirement that drivers’ rest time include consecutive 1 a.m.-to-5 a.m. segments.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable, especially after both provisions that we are talking about would basically … have been studied for quite some time in order to come to the conclusion that these would be desirable measures,” Menendez said.

The Garden State lawmakers noted they have support from Democratic leaders, such as Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chamber’s top transportation funding writer and others who want to see the proposal taken out. Last week, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein indicated she would offer proposals to undo provisions proposed by Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

Menendez said he would cite recent highway accidents that involved trucks, such as the recent crash on the New Jersey Turnpike involving a driver for Wal-Mart that killed one and injured three others, including comedian Tracy Morgan.

“I’m sure we can pull, unfortunately, fatal accidents across the country in states with many members where they’ll have to think about their conscience,” Menendez added.

The proposal, approved at an Appropriations Committee hearing by a vote of 21-9, also would suspend the requirement that drivers’ rest time include consecutive 1 a.m.-to-5 a.m. segments. The FMCSA would have a year to review the safety effects of the rule changes, and it would be required to report to Congress to justify its safety claims.

Last week, Sean McNally, vice president of public affairs for the American Trucking Associations, said Collins’ proposal was supported by a bipartisan majority of senators who “put safety first” to suspend parts of the restart rule.

“Good data and analysis are the backbone of good public policy, and the government failed to provide either when making these unsupported changes, and ATA believes the full Senate will agree with Sen. Collins and the Senate Appropriations Committee that until they do provide that data and analysis, these rules should be suspended,” McNally said.

Overall, the Senate’s $54.4 billion transportation funding legislation is more than the Obama administration’s request of $51 million and the fiscal 2014 level of $50.8 billion.