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April 29, 2015 12:45 PM, EDT

Restart Rider in Appropriations Bill Could Extend Suspension

A House appropriations bill unveiled this week contains a rider on the 34-hour restart that adds new requirements on the study Congress ordered last year, meaning suspension of the restart could be extended beyond September.

The rider says that before the 34-hour restart can be reinstated, the study must address whether the restart has safety benefits and whether it is better for drivers in terms of fatigue, health, longevity and work schedules.

Despite disagreement over what ought to be in the 2016 appropriations bill, the subcommittee sent the bill, without dissent, to the full committee for consideration.

The bill also contains a provision that would allow 33-foot trailers on interstate highways and other highways where the current limit is 28 feet. Another provision would allow trucks on Idaho’s interstate highways to weigh as much as 129,000 pounds.

The current interstate weight limit is 80,000 pounds.

American Trucking Associations said it was “pleased” that the House Appropriations Committee had included a number of provisions in the bill that “we believe will improve the safety and efficiency of our industry.”

However, two Democrats on the committee said the restart rider and others affecting the trucking industry do not belong in the appropriations bill.

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) said the bill, if passed with the restart rider, would continue “to delay full implementation of [the Department of Transportation’s] hours-of-service rule, despite the fact that the study we requested last year is under way.”

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said the riders mean that “Christmas came early for the trucking industry — longer, heavier trucks, stalled enforcement of hours-of-service rules and inadequate insurance requirements.”

The two spoke at a meeting April 29 of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development of the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill would halt work by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on a rule that could require new minimum insurance levels.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it was pleased with the insurance rider and was studying the others in the bill to determine how they would affect their members.

“Controversial riders generally should not be included on an appropriations bill, and those on truck length and weight have no place in particular, given that the authorizers are actively working on a reauthorization proposal,” Price said.

Congress is working to craft a new transportation reauthorization bill handled largely by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.