Hours of Service restart provision threatened

There is a developing issue with the federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulation, and MTAC wanted to provide a summary of what is happening. The bottom line is that there was a “legislative glitch” with some of the language regarding the HOS regulation that was included in the omnibus government funding bill passed last year.

To recap recent HOS developments, on July 1, 2013, FMCSA changed the regulation to state that the 34 hour restart could only be used once per 7 days (168) hours, and had to include consecutive1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods. Congress ultimately acted to suspend that by including a provision in the fiscal year 2015 government funding bill which required FMCSA to complete a study before FMCSA could enforce the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and 168 hour provisions.

Roughly a year later, Congress included another provision in the fiscal year 2016 government funding bill to require “statistically significant” data in the study regarding safety improvements before FMCSA could enforce the new restart provisions. However, there was a problem with the way the legislative language was written. Rather than stating that the restart provisions in effect before July 1, 2013 would remain in the event that FMCSA could not produce “statistically significant” data, what the language actually said, according to DOT, was that the entire restart provision itself would not be in effect. There would simply be a weekly cap on hours that could be driven, with no restarts allowed.

While Congress and the industry knew what the intent of this law change was, the Department of Transportation has seized on the actual wording of the law. They are threatening to begin enforcing the regulation with no restart provision. This has not yet happened, but FMCSA/DOT are reportedly preparing to do it.

ATA, state trucking associations, and political leaders in Congress are working to come to a resolution. The industry believes that the 34 hour restart should be preserved, and that it was clearly the intent of the provision contained in the government funding bill to do so.