Congress has stepped up to help the trucking industry, yet again. Multiple transportation-related issues were addressed via the FAST Act, and now important action regarding the 34-hour restart rule has been taken as part of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.
On December 16, 2015, President Obama signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015. It includes language suspending enforcement of portions of the hours of service (HOS) rules so that further study can be completed.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website now includes the following statement about the change:
"FMCSA suspends enforcement of certain sections of the Agency's Hours of Service (HOS) rules as required by the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, enacted December 16, 2014. Specifically, FMCSA suspends the requirements regarding the restart of a driver's 60- or 70-hour limit that drivers were required to comply with beginning July 1, 2013. The restart provisions have no force or effect from the date of enactment of the Appropriations Act through the period of suspension, and such provisions are replaced with the previous restart provisions in effect on June 30, 2013. FMCSA provides this notice to motor carriers, commercial drivers, State Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program grant recipients and other law enforcement personnel of these immediate enforcement changes."
In 2013, FMCSA required that drivers using a 34-hour restart to reset their weekly allotment of hours have two periods between 1:00 am and 5:00 am as part of their extended off-duty period, and artificially limited the use of those extended resets to once per week.
Industry groups were not pleased, believing that FMCSA did not fully investigate nor understand how the rule might impact trucking safety as well as drivers' health. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) felt that the restrictions would force more truck traffic onto the roads during more dangerous daytime hours and actually increase, not decrease, the risk of crashes.
The 34-hour restart provision was first suspended in December 2014 as part of a bill signed by President Obama and supported by the ATA. The rule was then further studied to determine if it was potentially leading to a greater driver risk. During the study period, the government assessed operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts of the rule across a variety of fleet sizes and operations. Now the rule has been suspended yet again, and will be re-assessed further pending additional study.