, Land Line managing editor | Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Truckers using the voluntary restart provision won’t have to change the way they use it, even if the government lets the current appropriations language expire the end of September.
Since December 2014, truckers have been able to use the voluntary 34-hour restart provision when they need it rather than limiting it to once every seven days, and it does not have to include two overnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. stints. That flexibility is thanks to the now-dubbed Collins Amendment introduced and passed into the federal government’s 2015 appropriations bill.
Every year, legislation is put together that funds federal government operations for the upcoming fiscal year. The federal government’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 each year.
Funding for the 2015 fiscal year was passed and signed into law in December 2014. It included an amendment that mandated changes to the voluntary 34-hour restart, which were introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
The Collins amendment suspended 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.
Even though the appropriations bill wasn’t signed into law until December 2014, it’s still set to expire at the end of September. The options facing Congress are to pass some or all of the 12 appropriations bills between now and the end of the month to keep the government funded, or to pass extensions of the current funding.
Regardless of which path Congress takes, the changes to the voluntary restart provision will stay in place until the mandated study is completed, Land Line has learned.
A spokesman with FMCSA confirmed that the study is currently in the data collection phase. When that is completed toward the end of September, the study team will analyze the data. Until a final report on the findings is issued, the voluntary restart provisions will remain as is.
As added protection on the voluntary restart provision, language is included in the 2016 appropriations Transportation Housing and Urban Development bill that passed the House and is currently in the Senate. It would continue the current provision if the Department of Transportation cannot prove to Congress that the once-per-week restriction and mandated two overnight periods actually improved safety on the roads.
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