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3 House members file bill to delay use of new HOS 34-hour restart

“Concerns have been raised that the new rules cause more congestion during peak morning travel and could push drivers to be more aggressive during the hours they do spend on the road,” the lawmakers said in a news release.

The Trucker Staff

10/31/2013

WASHINGTON — Three members of the House of Representatives including two Republicans and one Democrat, have filed a bill that would in essence rescind a portion of the new Hours of Service rule, delaying use of the current 34-hour restart provision until an independent assessment of the rule is complete.

Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Tom Rice, R-S.C., and Mike Michaud, D-Maine, said the new rule is taking a toll on truck drivers and the trucking industry, which the lawmakers called “the lifeblood of the American economy.”

The bill, entitled the “True Understanding of the Economy and Safety Act, or the “TRUE Safety Act, has not been assigned to a committee, although logically it would be sent to the Highways and Transit subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Highlights of the TRUE Safety Act include:

• Allow truckers to operate under the 34-hour restart rules that were in place before July 1, 2013.

• Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an independent assessment of the methodology FMCSA used to come up with the new 34-hour restart rule.

• Prohibits the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from applying the new restart rule if the findings of a current FMCSA study are contrary to FMCSA’s in-house lab studies used to support the initial restart rule. The current FMCSA study on the effectiveness of the new 34-hour restart provision was mandated by Congress in MAP-21.

• Under no circumstances could the new 34-hour restart rule be re-implemented sooner than six months after GAO submits its assessment to Congress.

The FMCSA, while reiterating its stance never to comment on pending legislation, nevertheless defended the method with which it developed the new 34-hour restart.

“Safety is our top priority and the FMCSA is committed to reducing truck driver fatigue and improving safety for every traveler on our highways and roads,” FMCSA spokesperson Marissa Padilla, told The Trucker.

“The 2011 Hours of Service Rule to reduce fatigue-related truck crashes was published following years of scientific research, safety studies, and consideration of public comments.  FMCSA has finished collecting data for the MAP-21 restart field study and the Agency is working to thoroughly analyze the findings and have the report peer-reviewed before sending it to Congress.”

In filing the bill, the lawmakers cited a study completed by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) that said the new rule would result in an annual cost of $376 million to the trucking industry alone.

The American Trucking Associations thanked the three representatives “for introducing legislation that would put the brakes on the restart provision of the current federal Hours of Service rules until an independent review is conducted.”

“When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went ahead with its changes to the restart rule, it did so without waiting for essential research to be completed,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “This bill would simply do what should have been done in the first place: delay implementation until we really know the true operational impacts, costs and safety benefits.”

While only in effect for four months, the rule is already causing significant disruption in the trucking industry, said an ATA news release. “ATA member Schneider National, for example, reported that while productivity has slipped 3-4 percent, there’s been little change in the fleet’s safety performance and an increase in driver dissatisfaction.”

“We had hoped FMCSA would’ve listened to reason when we asked them to delay initially, but we hope they’ll listen to Congress and rethink these changes,” Graves said. “We appreciate Reps. Hanna, Rice and Michaud for their important work in this area.”

Other businesses likely to be adversely impacted include construction firms, delivery services and fresh food distributors, the lawmakers claimed.

“Concerns have been raised that the new rules cause more congestion during peak morning travel and could push drivers to be more aggressive during the hours they do spend on the road,” the lawmakers said in a news release. “This rule could cost businesses and consumers billions of dollars and it is plausible that it will actually decrease safety on the roads.”

Hanna said it was wrongheaded for the federal government to impose an arbitrary and capricious regulation that impacts almost every sector of the American economy without first finishing a study on its effectiveness.

“Federal agencies should have an obligation to prove that new rules and regulations do not cause more harm than good in terms of both safety and costs,” he said. “There are legitimate concerns that this new rule makes our roads less safe and hurts small business.  The TRUE Safety Act is a bipartisan effort to press the ‘pause button’ on this new rule while an independent assessment is completed to ensure the rule makes sense and will not actually harm the travelling public and American economy.”

Rice said truckers were being held to a new un-tested standard that limits their productivity and ultimately — their profitability.

“Congress required the FMSCA is to complete a comprehensive study before imposing new Hours of Service standards on our truckers,” he said. “Instead, the agency has abused its authority and is requiring truckers to comply with one of the most stringent parts of its regulation prior to receiving their study’s findings. This legislation will rein in FMSCA and postpone the new un-tested Hours of Service regulation until its study is complete and require an additional study to ensure that our truckers are not being overregulated.” 

Michaud noted that many truckers plan their schedules to be on the road overnight so as to avoid traffic and other hazards during the day.

“I’m concerned that the new rules push drivers to get back on the road during the morning rush hour, increase road congestion and jeopardize safety,” he said. “The independent assessment required by this bill will ensure the regulations are based on sound data in order to minimize costs and improve safety.”

Hanna, Rice and Michaud are members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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