34-hour restart set aside; industry reacts

One of the the most contentious federal regulations controlling truck driver behavior has been set aside, and the American trucking industry is pleased.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Thursday, March 9, confirmed the 2013 regulations on the 34-hour restart will not go back into effect. The decision was based on the results of a study released earlier this week.

Reaction of trucking industry organizations was swift and positive.

The U.S. Department of Transportation notified Congress that the required study of the those regulations revealed they provided no safety benefit. That notification verified a DOT Inspector General notice issued last week on the study’s conclusions.

The 34-hour restart regulations took effect July 1, 2013, and were suspended on Dec. 15, 2014, following widespread pushback from the industry. As part of a broader hours-of-service overhaul by the FMCSA, the regulations required any 34-hour restart to include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and allowed truckers to only take one restart per 168-hour period.

Congress suspended those provisions in December of 2014 and required FMCSA to perform the study to determine whether they should go back into effect. That study of 235 drivers over five months concluded the regs did not enhance safety or reduce driver fatigue.

Trucking organizations reacted.

Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association Executive Vice President Todd Spencer:

“It’s not only common sense, it’s trucker sense. We have always championed the need for flexibility in the hours-of-service regulations so that drivers can drive when rested and avoid times of heavy congestion or bad weather conditions.”

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear:

“The release of this report closes what has been a long, and unnecessary, chapter in our industry’s drive to improve highway safety. Congress repeatedly told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that rules of this nature must show a benefit to safety and this report clearly shows there was no benefit.”

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Truckload Carriers Association Vice President of Governmental Affairs David Heller:

The OIGs assessment of the restart study supports what the industry has been saying all along, that requiring two consecutive periods of 1-5 a.m. and limiting the restart to once a week didn’t contain any net benefit to the industry.  We look forward to working with the Trump administration on promulgating future rules regarding truck drivers hours of service that make sense for the whole industry.”

Not surprisingly, the Teamsters union had a different take on the topic.

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa:

The DOT inspector general signed off on a study which had been rigged by the trucking industry from the start. Their friends in Congress attached a rider to a spending bill which dictated the parameters of the study in order to ensure its outcome. … The rollback of these rules is short-sighted and one that could jeopardize the lives of Americans traveling on the nation’s thoroughfares. Truckers, like most of us, do their job better when they get proper rest. That was more likely under the HOS rules originally approved in 2013 that required drivers to take two nighttime breaks during a 34-hour period and only use their restart once a week.”