34-hour restart change not in House legislation

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The House’s Transportation Committee released legislation earlier this week which would extend for three months the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorization, but notably absent from the bill is language to clarify the potential damage done by a December government funding bill.

Reports had hinted that legislators and trucking lobbyists may try to slide into the aviation bill a few lines to undo a provision in the 2016 fiscal year appropriations bill that could, depending on the findings of a pending FMCSA, remove the 34-hour restart from hours of service regulations. But the bill includes nothing on hours of service or the 34-hour restart.

The December funding law only meant to preclude two currently suspended 34-hour restart provisions — the once-per-week limit to the restart’s use and the stipulation that it include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods — from going back into effect following the agency’s release of its study.

Trucking lobbyists have been mum on a potential fix, as have lawmakers. The FAA extension must be passed by March 31 to prevent the agency from halting operations, so the bill was considered an appropriate place, given its transportation roots, to include the 34-hour restart clarifications.

The Senate has yet to release its version of an extension, though it may stick with the three-month extension the House introduced March 10.

The longer, more robust FAA authorization bill, for which the extension is meant to give lawmakers more time to hammer out, may also be an avenue for Congress to fix the restart slip-up.