The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development subcommittee has submitted its draft appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020. Several trucking-related provisions are proposed, including one that protects the 30-minute break rule within hours-of-service regulations.
On Thursday, May 23, the House Appropriations Committee approved to move THUD’s appropriations bill to the full committee during a markup meeting. Although the purpose of an appropriations bill is to allocate funding for operations, personnel and other necessities, policy provisions also find their way into the text.
Below are some provisions related to the trucking industry.
30-minute rest break protection
One provision states that no funds can be used to enforce a rule that eliminates the 30-minute rest break within the federal regulations.
Collin Long, director of government affairs at the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association, told Land Line Now that the Association has a lot of problems with this provision. Long said the mandatory 30-minute break has not demonstrated any meaningful impact regarding highway safety.
“In fact, we think its elimination would go a bit farther to promote safety than keeping this set in stone,” Long said.
Even modifications to the break rule could be prevented with the bill’s current language.
Prohibits petition against states’ meal/rest break laws
A provision specifically bans the use of funds to review and issue a decision on any petition to preempt state meal and rest break laws that may differ from federal regulations.
This is likely a direct response to the American Trucking Associations’ petition to override California’s meal and rest break laws. California requires employers to provide employees with an off-duty 30-minute break for every five hours worked and a 10-minute off-duty break for every four-hour period.
In December, FMCSA granted an ATA petition to preempt California’s meal and rest break rules. A similar petition was struck down by the agency in 2008.
This provision prevents FMCSA from moving forward with the latest decision, allowing California to proceed enforcing its meal/rest break rules on truckers.
ELD exemption for ag/insect haulers
Another provision in the appropriations bill would extend ELD exemptions for motor carriers hauling livestock or insects. Similar to language used in Section 135, the provision bars using funds to enforce ELD requirements on qualifying carriers.
More specifically, qualified truckers will be exempt from ELD regulations through Sep. 30, 2020, which is when fiscal year 2020 ends.
Long pointed out that there is nothing surprising about this provision as it has appeared several times before. What was surprising to some was the fact it popped up in the first draft. Long thought it would more likely get through as an amendment, stating Democrats may be less accepting of the exemption.
Compliance, Safety, Accountability program
If passed, FMCSA will be allowed to publicly publish information regarding analysis of violations developed under CSA.
However, there is a caveat. FMCSA still has to adhere to CSA reforms established in 2015’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Those provisions require the following before moving forward with publication of CSA information:
- Submission of a National Academy of Sciences correlation study.
- Identified deficiencies have been addressed.
- A corrective plan has been implemented.
- FMCSA has addressed all issues raised in the report titled ‘‘Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers.”
- DOT secretary has initiated modification of the CSA program.
Assuming all of those requirements have been satisfied, FMCSA could resume publication of CSA data.
OOIDA is concerned that until all issues with CSA scores are fixed, none of its information should be available for public consumption. Long said that the FAST Act reforms are a step in the right direction and data should not be published until those terms are met.
Underride guard inspection
An update to annual inspection regulations, one provision will require that rear underride guards be included in the inspections.
This provision changes nothing about requirements for rear underride guards. Rather, it only ensures compliance by adding them to the inspection list.
Nothing within the proposed bill is guaranteed to make it into the final draft. The most recent draft approved for the full committee is just the first step in a long process before money is approved and distributed.
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