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U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approves amendment to suspend 34-hour restart

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the two HOS provisions suspended in the amendment were the requirements that rest be taken by commercial drivers on two consecutive nights from 1 to 5 a.m. and that the 34-hour restart was limited to once a week.

By LYNDON FINNEY and DOROTHY COX
The Trucker Staff

6/5/2014

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Thursday morning approved an amendment to a transportation and housing funding bill that will suspend the 34-hour restart provision of the federal Hours of Service rule for a year while a field study is undertaken.

The amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a ranking member of the Committee, was approved by a vote of 21-9. It will now become part of the $54 billion funding bill for the Transportation Housing and Urban Development Department or THUD.

Collins said the two HOS provisions suspended in the amendment were the requirements that rest be taken by commercial drivers on two consecutive nights from 1 to 5 a.m. and that the 34-hour restart was limited to once a week. She said those portions have had the “unintended consequences” of forcing more traffic on the roads during more congested daylight hours, thus putting more motorists at risk, and making truck drivers more fatigued and were “not in the best interests of public safety.”

The amendment would suspend funding for these two HOS provisions and “the restart rule in effect on June 30, 2013, shall immediately be in effect.”

Collins noted that the Federal Highway Administration had announced a federally funded grant program “to examine how truck deliveries during times when there is less traffic on the roads can improve air quality and create more livable cities” and that it was a case of “one [federal] agency totally contrary to another.”

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Anne Ferro Wednesday pushed back against Collins’ amendment, with the headline of Ferro’s blog on DOT’s “Fast Lane” site saying, “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers Off the Road.” The blog (click here) posted several pictures of truck crashes and over-turned tractor-trailers.

Ferro continued that “The current Hours of Service include common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety by reducing the maximum average work week for truckers to 70 hours from 82 hours and requiring a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shift.

“We carefully considered the public safety and health risks of long work hours and solicited input from everyone who has a stake in this important issue, including victims’ advocates, truck drivers and companies. The result is a balanced Hours of Service rule with analysis showing that the changes save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year …”

The amendment requires the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to submit a plan outlining the scope and methodology for the study to the DOT Inspector General and says the the plan must include “A sufficient number of drivers participating to produce statistically significant results …,’ referring to a slim minority of drivers in FMCSA’s study supporting its rule being over-the-road truckers.

The American Trucking Associations, which has been maintained all along that the new HOS rules were more unsafe, immediately hailed the amendment’s passage.

“Today, thanks to Senator Collins’ leadership, we are a step closer to reversing these damaging, unjustified regulations,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves in a news release.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in a statement thanked “Collins and the supportive members of the Senate Appropriations for their work,” adding that “FMCSA cannot simply regulate based upon guesses and it should not make a regulatory decision and then create data behind it that supports their decision.” 

A safety advocacy group was also quick to respond Wednesday to reports about the amendment, but not favorably.

“I have whiplash — one month ago I was in the White House celebrating vital improvements to reduce truck driver fatigue and now my own senator is using her power as a ranking member on the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee to undo a rule which will result in more overly tired truckers on our roads,” said Daphne Izer, the founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers in a statement ahead of a Senate hearing on the THUD bill.

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

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