Foley’s Matthew Wrobel interprets the decision
In a major blow to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) safety regulation agenda, both houses of Congress have passed a spending bill that includes a provision to suspend the 2013 version of the 34-hour restart rule. The rules will now automatically revert to the original 34-hour restart rule that was in place between 2003 and 2013.
What did Congress do?
Congress suspended the rules by adding the following language to the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (the 2015 spending list):
“Section 133 temporarily suspends enforcement of the hours-of-service regulation related to the restart provisions that went into effect on July 1, 2013 and directs the Secretary to conduct a study of the operational, safety, health and fatigue aspects of the restart provisions in effect before and after July 1, 2013. The Inspector General is directed to review the study plan and report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations whether it meets the requirements under this provision.”
What does that mean?
Essentially, that the version of the 34-hour restart rule has been suspended. That version of the rule required that the restart period contain two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Instead, drivers should revert to taking any 34-hour period for a restart. A driver can now also utilize a restart more than one time per week if necessary. The 2014 rules only allowed on restart every 34 hours.
When does this go into effect?
As soon as President Obama signs the law into effect. There is little to no chance of a veto, as the bill contained a number of items viewed as political “wins” for the President. It would be highly shocking for him to reject this bill.
What does ‘suspended’ mean?
You didn’t think it would be simple did you? The rules have been suspended and the DOT has been ordered to complete a study comparing the effectiveness of the two different versions of the rules. The bill is an annual spending bill, so it runs out on September 30, 2015. If we reach that date with no resolution another suspension will need to be legislated to prevent the 2014 rules from going back into place.
What about the 30-minute rule?
That’s still in place, as are daily driving and on-duty limits. This bill only targeted the 34-hour restart rule. Continue to follow those regulations.
What if I get pulled over?
One of the problems with rules changing in this manner is that Congress does not give law enforcement agencies the opportunity to train. (FMCSA usually gives them several months). You may experience issues during roadside stops. We advise remaining calm and appealing the ticket to the body monitoring Commercial Vehicle Safety in the applicable state.
In other transportation policy news, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently announced that professional truck drivers would no longer have to comply with a burdensome daily paperwork requirement, saving the trucking industry an estimated $1.7 billion annually in time and materials. The rule change took effect on Dec. 18, 2014.
The new rules are fairly simple. Drivers will still be required to inspect their vehicles on a daily basis. If they find a defect, or if they are alerted to a defect, they will still be required to complete and file a Daily Vehicle Inspection Report as they are today. However, if they don’t find anything wrong, they are not required to fill out a DVIR.
“President Obama challenged his Administration to find ways to cut waste and red tape, a challenge I pledged to meet during my confirmation hearing,” said Secretary Foxx. “With today’s proposal, we are delivering on that pledge, saving business billions of dollars while maintaining our commitment to safety. It’s the kind of win-win solution that I hope our Department will continue to find over the coming months.”