A provision that would suspend parts of an hours of service rule has been included in a $1 trillion bill congressional lawmakers plan to advance to President Obama’s desk this month to keep federal agencies funded through fiscal 2015.
The provision, offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would suspend for a year a requirement that drivers take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart. It also would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide Congress with an extensive study detailing the rule’s safety benefits.
The bill language says that within 90 days of the enactment of the act, "the Secretary shall initiate a naturalistic study of the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts of the restart provisions." It would suspend the current restart provisions through Sept. 30, 2015, "and the restart rule in effect on June 30, 2013, shall immediately be in effect."
American Trucking Associations’ leadership had urged its membership to press federal representatives to back the HOS suspension language in the omnibus.
"We're pleased that the Collins language is included in the fiscal 2015 omnibus spending bill. We now urge the House and Senate to pass the overall bill and that the president sign it into law," said Sean McNally, ATA vice president of public affairs.
The bill also would provide $500 million for U.S. Department of Transportation infrastructure grants that have become popular with states and municipalities.
Congressional leaders are now in a race against the clock, as they look to advance the massive multi-bill legislation through the chambers. A short-term funding law expires Dec. 11. Without an omnibus package or another short-term funding measure reaching the president’s desk by that date, a government shutdown is likely.
“As we close in on our Dec. 11 deadline, we now ask that the House and Senate take up and pass this bill as soon as possible, and that the president sign it when it reaches his desk. The American people deserve the certainty of a continuously functioning and responsible government, and the knowledge that both parties in Congress have heard their demands and have worked cooperatively on their behalf,” said the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations panels, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
Opposition to Collins’ proposal has come from the Obama administration, a small number of groups, and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
The two Democrats had asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to remove the HOS suspension in the omnibus.
In addition to the $500 million in TIGER grants, the bill also provides:
- $40.3 billion for the federal-aid highways program (MAP-21), which is equal to the level enacted for fiscal year 2014.
- $1.39 billion for Amtrak
- $830 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to allow NHTSA to make important investments in its safety defects analysis and investigation programs and improve the agency’s ability to aggressively screen defect trends.
- $104 million for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
View the full bill here. HOS section begins at page 1443.