Collins' office lashes back over DOT push to kill 34-hour restart amendment

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 12/8/2014

Sen. Susan Collins office struck back late last week against an attempt by the Department of Transportation to get an amendment pulled from the transportation appropriations bill. The amendment would roll back changes to the voluntary 34-hour restart.

The Republican senator’s office responded in an email to Land Line on Friday to a letter sent to key members of the House and Senate appropriations committees by DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“Unfortunately, the inflammatory and inaccurate assertions in this letter are what we have come to expect from the Department of Transportation regarding the regulations governing truck drivers. The letter is filled with rhetoric and not only ignores the Department's own data, but also the peer review of its data,” the email from Collins’ communication director, Kevin Kelley, stated.

“It also ignores facts outlined in a letter from the former Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Annette Sandberg who stated that Senator Collins’s proposed changes would make the roads safer. The Obama Administration forces truck drivers to operate more often during the congested morning rush hours when school buses, commuters and other travelers are on the road and when the FMCSA’s own data show the highest incidence of accidents.”

The Collins amendment would suspend the overnight provisions and the restriction on using the restart once every seven days while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducts a comprehensive study – with input from the Office of Inspector General – to see if these changes are truly justified.

The Collins amendment has drawn praise from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, former FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg and others.

OOIDA also took exception to Foxx’s letter to the House and Senate appropriations committee members – and responded with a letter of its own. The letter asks them to support maintaining language in the final FY15 appropriations bill that would set aside the current 34-hour restart rule.

OOIDA maintains that the provision authored by Collins, which was approved on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Appropriations Committee, is a commonsense approach to the concerns of thousands of safe and professional drivers. They say the current rule has the unintended effect of forcing truckers who are coming off of restart to get on the highway during the most congested and dangerous hours of the morning.

The Association considers the claim made by those opposed to the Collins Amendment saying truckers will otherwise work 80 hours or more per week to be a misleading scare tactic. The Association pointed to an article by Land Line Magazine in which OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth debunked the 80-hour myth.

Appropriations bills, of which there are 12, fund the federal government and are to be passed on an annual basis by Oct. 1. The government is continuing to operate thanks to a continuance of last year’s approps bill.

That continuing resolution expires Dec. 11, meaning Congress is in the process of finalizing a bill. The actual bill could become public as early as Monday evening, Dec. 8.

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