June 3, 2014 1:30 PM, EDT

Sen. Collins to Call for Changes to HOS Rule at Hearing Today

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is expected to offer an amendment today to a fiscal 2015 transportation funding bill that would address what her staff said are the unintended consequences of a federal truck safety rule that is opposed by much of the industry.

UPDATE: Collins' amendment passed 21-9. Click here for today's news.

Kevin Kelley,  a spokesman for Collins, said the senator’s goal is to reach a compromise between industry groups and safety regulators over a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hours-of-service restart rule that limits the time truckers can spend on the road.

Kelley stressed that the restart rule “may not be in the best interest of public safety, truck drivers, and the businesses and consumers who depend on their services.”

“There is increasing concern that the regulations affecting overnight driving are actually resulting in more trucks being on the road during congested, daytime hours, raising important issues that deserve more study,” Kelley said, adding that FMCSA “did not consider the unintended consequences and safety concerns of forcing more trucks to travel during congested, daytime hours. Nor did it address how this rule could affect overnight drivers, forcing them onto the road at a time when they would otherwise be resting.”

Specifics about the amendment would not be available prior to the full committee’s consideration of the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development funding bill, Kelley said. Collins is the ranking member on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which advanced the funding bill to the full committee June 3.

A consortium of trucking companies and industry groups led by American Trucking Associations wrote to Collins and top Senate appropriators June 3 expressing their support for an amendment that would suspend FMCSA’s restart rule. Doing so, the groups wrote, would allow the agency more time to justify the rule’s safety claims.

UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. were among the companies that reached out to the senators to also ask them to lift FMCSA’s enforcement for drivers to take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart.

While industry observers told Transport Topics they could envision an amendment related to the restart provision gaining traction at the markup, two Democratic aides involved in the markup indicated such an amendment would lack the requisite votes for adoption.

If proponents of the amendment are not successful at the markup, they could have another opportunity to change the bill when it reaches the floor.

On the House side, that chamber’s fiscal 2015 transportation funding bill would direct FMCSA to offer Congress scientific evidence supporting the benefits of the agency’s once-per-week restart restriction. The agency’s study would need to be submitted within 90 days of the bill’s enactment. The House bill will be debated on the floor June 9.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro claims the restart rule that took effect July 1 has been instrumental in enhancing highway safety. On June 3, she took to the Department of Transportation’s “Fast Lane Blog” to restate her point: “Suspending the current hours-of-service safety rules will expose families and drivers to greater risk every time they're on the road.”