July 11, 2016 3:15 AM, EDT

Congress Unlikely to Pass HOS Rest Rule by Recess

Jim Galligan for TT

This story appears in the July 11 print edition of Transport Topics.

Congress is poised to adjourn for its summer break without sending to President Obama legislation that would let truck drivers avoid a rest requirement of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on consecutive days.

The trucking provision is part of a fiscal 2017 House transportation funding bill not likely to advance before the House and Senate adjourn at the end of this week, said lawmakers who also are preparing for political conventions this month.

For the hours-of-service provision to advance to the president’s desk, members of Congress would need to pass the transportation funding bill when they return to Washington in September.

Republican leaders in the House have insisted a desire to move the transportation bill and other funding legislation in September. If they don’t do so, the leaders have suggested passing one bill that would consist of every fiscal 2017 funding bill. It is unclear whether that large bill, known on Capitol Hill as an omnibus, would include the trucking provision.

“We’ll get back to that work and continue to move forward to get as much done as possible,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters last week. “I think we’ll work all the way through to get as many as we can do before Sept. 30.”

“I believe the House should do its work, and I think you’ll see the House be very productive in appropriations, especially with the new structured rule,” McCarthy added.

The House and Senate have passed three of the 12 funding bills. A vigorous debate on gun control policies in the chambers dominated much of the floor time this summer. Lingering are immigration and money to combat the Zika virus. The House is likely to wrap up its work on an education funding legislation. The Senate is expected to take up defense funding issues.

The House transportation funding bill’s provision would deny funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to enforce the 2013 requirement that truckers take off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on consecutive days. A 2015 funding law suspended the 2013 change pending a U.S. Department of Transportation study. During the rule’s suspension, truckers have to adhere to pre-July 2013 hours-of-service regulations.

The House legislation also would prevent California and other states from enacting laws requiring companies to schedule meal and rest breaks for drivers. The meal and rest provision is meant to block a California law signed in 2011 that requires employers to provide a “duty- free” 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours a day and a second “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for those who work more than 10 hours a day.

Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations’ outgoing president, had indicated recently that ATA continues to work closely with coalition partners and state trucking associations to “ensure our hours-of-service language is solid” in the transportation funding bill.

In May, the Senate advanced its version of the transportation funding bill that would cap at 73 hours the allowable hours per week truckers may work before taking a break.