34-Hour Restart Rule Still in Effect
GRAIN VALLEY, MO— The trucking industry’s effort to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule missed a gear Tuesday when the House passed an appropriations bill that does not contain such a provision.
The bill went into two days of floor debate with a provision that calls for a report on the safety benefits of the restart but does not suspend it.
Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 21-9 to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studies the impact of the rule.
In a letter to U.S. House of Representatives members sent this week, Teamsters Union President James Hoffa urged representatives to oppose any floor amendments to an appropriations bill that would delay, revise or replace the current hours of service 34-hour restart provision or allow increases in truck size and weight.
“The tragic accident that claimed the life of comedian James McNair and injured many others including actor Tracy Morgan, could have been prevented had Walmart’s driver been properly rested rather than reportedly going 24 hours without a break,” Hoffa said. “While the notoriety of the victims in this accident pushed truck safety to the front page, more than 4,000 lives are claimed each year on our highways as a result of accidents involving trailer trucks. We must ensure that hours of service rules provide enough rest for drivers so cumulative fatigue doesn’t put the driving public at risk.”
This means that the question about suspension of the restart must be resolved when the House and Senate confer on their separate transportation appropriations bills.
The full Senate is supposed to take up its bill next week. Although the bill as it now stands calls for suspension and a study, there could be a move to take out the suspension on the floor.
Adding to the uncertainty, there remains the possibility that Congress will not be able to clear an appropriations package at all before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. This could trigger a Continuing Resolution to carry over current funding and policy into next year, in which case the status quo will remain in place.
The bottom line for carriers and drivers: the current 34-hour restart is in effect until further notice.