Congress Passes Omnibus, Extends HOS Restart Review


A review of an hours-of-service restart rule will take longer to complete under guidelines Congress approved in an expansive fiscal 2016 funding bill Dec. 18. For backers of twin 33-foot trailers, the funding bill did not authorize the use of the trailers nationwide.

The Senate on a 65-33 vote cleared for President Obama’s desk the $1.1 trillion omnibus funding package that would ensure federal agencies stay funded through September. The House had passed the omnibus 316-133 the previous day. The bill’s final passage came on the final day of work for Congress before the holiday break. Obama has indicated he would sign the funding package into law.

The trucking industry is strongly opposed to the HOS restart rule that’s currently suspended. The omnibus states that before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reinstates the restart rule, it would need to report to Congress on how the rule delivers improvements “in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health” and work schedules.

The expectation among stakeholders and transportation observers is that the new extensive review of the restart rule will take many months to complete, thus maintaining the rule’s suspension.

“Congress has seen fit to demand that FMCSA ‘show its work,’ before imposing unnecessary and onerous restrictions on the use of the 34-hour restart by commercial drivers,” American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said. “FMCSA foisted these restrictions on the industry without doing a proper investigation into how they might impact trucking safety and truck drivers’ health and longevity, so it is completely appropriate for Congress to establish a safety and health standard.”

The HOS restart rules requiring truck drivers to take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart were suspended as part of a funding law enacted in December 2014. Truckers still have to adhere to pre-July 2013 hours-of -ervice regulations.

The omnibus did not include the ATA-backed effort of allowing twin 33-foot trailers to be used around the country. ATA, the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking, and other groups strongly pushed to include the trailer provision in the omnibus.

“We’re disheartened that Congress has passed up a huge opportunity to improve highway safety and trucking’s efficiency by removing language that would have allowed twin 33s on U.S. highways,” said ATA chairman Pat Thomas, senior vice president of state government affairs for UPS Inc.