Congress includes trucker HOS suspension in 'cromnibus' spending bill

Congress includes trucker HOS suspension in 'cromnibus' spending bill

 

WASHINGTON — The likelihood that truck drivers will have different hours-of-service rules and more time on the road next year increased Tuesday when Congress included a rider that would suspend a portion of the 2013 HOS rules in its omnibus spending bill.

The House is expected to vote on that $1.013 trillion bill by midnight Dec. 11, though a very short-term extension of one or two days may be required to get the bill through the Senate, according to Reuters. Unless President Obama vetoes the bill, the HOS rules will change.

A battle has been raging over the inclusion of an amendment that would suspend for one year the requirement that drivers include two back-to-back 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods in any 34-hour “restart” period. That restriction was included in the July 2013 hours of service rules.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, first introduced the amendment in June, and it was approved by the Senate appropriations committee. The rider quickly fell into legislative limbo after a highly publicized truck accident and gridlock that derailed the Senate’s fiscal 2015 spending bill.

The Collins amendment also suspends a once-in-seven-days limit on the use of the restart, which was introduced in 2004 to allow drivers to begin a new 70-hour work week more quickly. Previously, truckers were required to be off-duty 48 hours between work weeks.

In addition, federal regulators would be required to study the safety effect of the restart provision, taking into account the impact of more day-time driving and less night work. The change to the restart provision would take effect immediately once the bill is law.

“We're pleased that the Collins language is included in the FY 2015 omnibus spending bill.  We now urge the House and Senate to pass the overall bill and that the President sign it into law,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves said Dec. 10.

The 1,063-page spending bill — dubbed “cromnibus” because it includes the detailed omnibus bill for 11 departments  plus a short-term continuing resolution that extends funding for the Department of Homeland Security — has something for everyone to love or hate.

Overall, federal spending levels would be kept flat, as per the 2013 budget deal that ended a U.S. government shutdown and avoided “sequestration” cuts in 2014 and 2015. The Department of Transportation would get $71 million, including $40 billion in highway funding.

The continuing resolution would extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security, including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, through Feb. 27.

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.comand follow him on Twitter: @wbcassidy_joc.