A bill that would reverse the current Hours of Service (HOS) restart for truck drivers to the pre-July 1st rule— for at least six months— has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
If it became law, the HOS measure (H.R. 3413)— which has been dubbed the TRUE Act— would:
- Put back into effect the 34-hour restart rules that were in place before July 1, 2013
- Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an independent assessment of the methodology FMCSA used to devise the current 34-hour restart rule
- Prevent re-implementing the current (July 1st) 34-hour restart rule until six months after GAO submits its assessment to Congress
The bipartisan H.R. 3413 was introduced by U.S. Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Mike Michaud (D-ME), all of whom are members of members of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.
The co-sponsors contend that the TRUE Act’s mandatory GAO assessment would reveal whether the restart rule is effective and valid.
“It is wrongheaded for the federal government to impose an arbitrary and capricious regulation that impacts almost every sector of the American economy without first finishing a study on its effectiveness,” said Rep. Hanna, the bill’s chief sponsor.
“There are legitimate concerns that this new rule makes our roads less safe and hurts small business,” he continued. “The TRUE Safety Act is a bipartisan effort to press the ‘pause button’ on this new rule while an independent assessment is completed to ensure the rule makes sense and will not actually harm the travelling public and American economy.”
Rep. Rice pointed out that FMCSA was required by Congress to complete its own comprehensive study before imposing new HOS standards— a study which the agency has yet to present.
He said that instead “the agency has abused its authority and is requiring truckers to comply with one of the most stringent parts of its regulation prior to receiving their study’s findings. This legislation will rein in FMSCA and postpone the new [current] un-tested hours-of- service regulation until its study is complete and require an additional study [by GAO] to ensure that our truckers are not being overregulated.”
“Many drivers plan their schedules to be on the road overnight so as to avoid traffic and other hazards during the day,” noted Rep. Michaud.
“I’m concerned that the new rules push drivers to get back on the road during the morning rush hour, increase road congestion and jeopardize safet," he added. "The independent assessment required by this bill will ensure the regulations are based on sound data in order to minimize costs and improve safety.”
Not surprisingly, trucking lobbies have reacted very favorably to the bill.
“When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went ahead with its changes to the restart rule, it did so without waiting for essential research to be completed,” said American Trucking Assns. (ATA) president & CEO Bill Graves. “This bill would simply do what should have been done in the first place: delay implementation until we really know the true operational impacts, costs and safety benefits.”
ATA advised that a recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute found that the current restart provisions will “ultimately” incur a net annual cost of up to $376 million—as opposed to the net benefit of $133 million that FMCSA had claimed it would deliver.
The trucking lobby also pointed out that, although in effect for only four months, the current restart rule is “already causing significant disruption,” noting that trucking giant Schneider National has reported that productivity has slipped 3-4% yet it has realized little change in its safety performance and has suffered an increase in driver dissatisfaction.
“We had hoped FMCSA would’ve listened to reason when we asked them to delay initially, but we hope they’ll listen to Congress and rethink these changes,” Graves added.
David Heller, director of safety & policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) told FleetOwner that the “current 34-hour restart rule is a contentious issue affecting fleet operations substantially. “This bill will help keep it on the front burner on Capitol Hill. Keep in mind that everyone in trucking—and in Congress—has been waiting for the results of FMCSA’s own [mandated] study of the [current] restart rule’s impact.
“The problem with this rule,” he added, “is simply that it assumes trucking is operated in a perfect world where there are no delays due to traffic, etc.”
“We are supportive of the TRUE Act,” Owner Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) spokesperson Norita Tayor told FleetOwner . “We hear from our members that the new, restrictive 34-hour restart provision is negatively affecting their lives and livelihoods with no safety benefit.”