Changes to 34-hour restart could happen soon thanks to approps bill

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 12/10/2014

Get in your time machine because the voluntary 34-hour restart provision could soon be going back to its pre June 30, 2013, incarnation. Gone will be the two overnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirements and the limitation on using the restart once every seven days, thanks to an amendment to the omnibus spending bill released by the House Tuesday evening.

The House’s Rules Committee is set to debate the appropriations bill and its floor procedure on Wednesday Dec. 10. Lawmakers are hoping to get the bill passed by the end of the week. There is also a short-term extension of the current funding extension in play to give the Senate time to pass the bill as well.

The annual appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation, along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, does not typically legislate this sort of thing. But in a Congress that had very few bills progressing, the rollback of the restart provision to its previous form took an unconventional path.

The changes to the voluntary 34-hour restart provision came to the appropriations bill via an amendment introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. 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 amendment also contains a lengthy detailing of how the study will be conducted, peer reviewed and approved by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

The inclusion in the final draft of the bill drew praise from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“OOIDA and small-business truckers applaud the House and Senate for rejecting scare tactics and misinformation and maintaining the bipartisan hours-of-service provision,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer in a press release. “We urge members in both chambers to support this legislation in a final vote in the coming days.”

“Small-business truckers know from personal experience that current restart restrictions compromise safety by forcing them onto the roads during the most congested and dangerous hours of morning traffic. While this isn’t the final word on the restart restrictions, OOIDA and our members thank Senator Collins for her commitment to safety and her tenacity in fighting for sound policy.”

As the House is poised to pass the bill and send it to the Senate, where it could take some time to pass, the Association sent out a National Call to Action to its membership urging that they voice their support of the bill.

“One more call to your lawmakers – both your Congressman and Senators – would be a good move. The number for the U.S. Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. The message is short and sweet. Simply ask the staff person to convey your message to ‘pass the CRomnibus legislation’ and thank them for doing so,” the alert states.

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