NLBMDA: Congressional Actions Target Commercial Trucks Regulator

This summer, Congress has been targeting the actions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates commercial trucking. In June, the House of Representatives approved the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill. The spending measure includes a provision that would not allow the agency to reinstate the 34-hour restart requirement as part of the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules until it completes a study of the restart requirement that is representative of all drivers who are required to comply with the rule, and that it considers the full impact of putting more trucks onto the road during daytime hours.

The 34-hour restart requirement was suspended last year as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 THUD appropriations and remains in effect until September 30, 2015 or when FMCSA completes a study on the 34-hour restart requirement, whichever is later. The 34-hour restart requirement mandates drivers to have two consecutive overnight rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and limits the use of the restart to once per seven days.

In July 2013, FMCSA altered the 34-hour restart rule, which was in place from 2003 to 2013. The subsequent outcome resulted in an adverse impact on productivity for truck drivers as well as questionable safety gains. NLBMDA and other critics of the 34-hour restart requirement point out it does not improve safety because it pushes more trucks onto the roads in the early morning hours, which is statistically the riskiest time of day for crashes.

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A continued halt to the 34-hour restart requirement would not invalidate the entire HOS rules as the current requirements for minimum off-duty hours between shifts, maximum on-duty hours between shifts, maximum driving hours per day, and mandatory rest breaks would remain in place.

Revision to the HOS rules is part of a broader effort by Congress to examine the activities of FMCSA. Recently, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, introduced the TRUCK Safety Reform Act (S.1669), which would require FMCSA to review rules, regulations, guidance and enforcement policies as well as report on the results of such reviews, every five years. Moreover, FMCSA would be required to strengthen its cost-benefit analysis for major rules, including working with an independent entity to receive written feedback that the sample used in the analysis is representative of the industry.

“The FMCSA has disregarded the views of Congress, stakeholders and several independent agencies with its current agenda-driven approach to regulating our nation’s truckers,” said Sen. Fischer. “It’s time for reform.”