Bill containing changes to 34-hour restart passes House; Senate up next

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

Changes to the voluntary 34-hour restart provision are one step closer to reality with the House passing the appropriations bill containing the changes on Thursday by a vote of 219-206.

The House of Representatives voted on the massive spending bill that will fund the federal government for fiscal year 2015 only three hours before the midnight deadline that the previous bill was set to expire – risking a shutdown of the government.

The bill has now been sent to the Senate for a vote. However, when the House passed the bill, leadership also had a short-term gap funding bill to give the Senate time to vote on the full-year funding bill.

The Senate is expected to vote on the spending bill as early as Saturday and as late as Monday according to D.C. insiders.

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 Sen. Collins for her commitment to safety and her tenacity in fighting for sound policy.”

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