Senate could restore 34-hour restart rules from 2013

Updated May 22, 2016

An amendment set to come to the Senate floor yet this week would, if made law, bring back regulations requiring truckers’ 34-hour restart to include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and limit the restart’s use to once a week.

The amendment was filed Tuesday, the same day the House released a bill that would essentially do the opposite: Permanently nix the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirements and the once-weekly limit.

The amendment, filed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would be added to the Senate’s 2017 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill, which was brought to the Senate floor last week.

Like the House plan floated Tuesday, Blumenthal’s amendment would effectively nullify the results of the study and its impact on hours of service regulations. However, unlike the House plan, it takes the opposite approach: Instead of reverting back to 2011 rules on a permanent basis, it would revert back to restart rules that took effect July 1, 2013.

The 2013 provisions have not been enforced since December 2014. Their reimplementation remained contingent on the results of the agency’s study.

To ward off such a scenario, Congress must again take up hours of service in some way. Lawmakers are using the 2017 DOT funding bills as the vehicle for the change.

For Blumenthal’s amendment to become law, it must be passed by the Senate. The Senate’s bill as a whole must then be voted on and passed. The House must also pass the bill and the hours language as it is in the Senate bill. The more conservative U.S. House, however, may be more reluctant to pass the measure, likely choosing to stick with its provision to restore 2011 restart regulations.

The Senate could take up the Blumenthal amendment this week.

The American Trucking Associations today, May 19, asked Congress to quickly advance legislation that would maintain the current restart rule, which it claims gives truck drivers the flexibility and opportunity to take extended off-duty periods without restrictions.

“We have said since the broad framework of the current hours-of-service rules went into effect in 2004 – complying with these rules improves safety,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “The flexibility to take additional rest that the restart provided for a decade, and is providing now, allows drivers to get additional off-duty time and rest, and we shouldn’t be putting restrictions on that – certainly not ones that have been shown to push truck traffic into riskier daytime hours.”