WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on a Senate trucking subcommittee said he is hopeful Republican leaders will be forced to remove a provision in a short-term funding bill that would clarify an hours-of-service rule for truckers.
“I’m still hoping it’s going to be taken out. I heard that the White House might threaten to veto if it’s still in there. This is still developing, so I’m going to fight in every way I can to get this provision out,” Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told Transport Topics on Dec. 7.
“This is something that is such a serious issue that will affect tens of thousands of lives, potentially tragically,” the senator added. “It shouldn’t be stuck into a [continuing resolution] and not go through regular order.”
Booker shared his concern about the trucking provision at a Commerce subcommittee hearing Dec. 7. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) shared his sentiment.
The hearing featured Chris Spear, president of American Trucking Associations. After the hearing, Spear told TT he disagreed with Booker, noting the hours-of-service matter had been debated extensively on Capitol Hill.
“This issue has been out there,” Spear said. “To suggest that this is any way a partisan issue — it’s been well-vetted.”
On Dec. 6, House Republican funding leaders unveiled a bill that would guide regulators on a U.S. Department of Transportation congressionally mandated report of a 2013 update of the hours-of-service, or HOS, rule.
The bill’s provision would require DOT to follow the existing 34-hour hours-of-service restart rule to "ensure continuity in federal rest regulations, should the report on the rule [mandated in prior acts] not meet the criteria set by Congress,” according to a summary the House Appropriations Committee provided.
Congress would need to advance the short-term funding bill by Dec. 9 if it intends to avoid a shutdown of various federal agencies. The bill would keep the government funded through the end of April.
Booker has the authority to pursue various procedures to delay the Senate's consideration of the funding bill. On Dec. 7, a House panel agreed to advance the bill to the floor as early as Dec. 8. The bill cannot be amended there.
A 2015 funding law suspended the 2013 HOS change pending the DOT report. During the rule’s suspension, truck drivers are required to follow pre-July 2013 HOS regulations.