Federal Update
Debate over 34-hour restart amendment likely not over

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The voluntary 34-hour restart provision truckers can use to reset their on-duty clocks drew a lot of publicity in the early summer.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican out of Maine, introduced an amendment to the transportation appropriations bill that would suspend the requirement that two overnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. rest periods be included in the restart and the prohibition on using the restart once every seven days.

The suspensions would be in place while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducts a comprehensive study – with input from the Office of Inspector General – to see if these additions made in 2013 were truly justified.

The amendment passed in committee on a vote of 21-9.

Its passage hinged largely on the committee’s understanding that suspending the overnight provisions would allow truckers to drive during less congested times, such as overnight. The committee members also did not believe that taking two 34-hour restarts in a seven day period made drivers any more tired or allowed them to work more.

Unfortunately, not too long after its passage the wreck involving comedian Tracy Morgan and a Walmart truck happened. Mainstream media and opponents to the Collins amendment started to seize the opportunity to water down the amendment.

Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, grabbed headlines with an amendment he was planning to introduce that would remove the suspensions from the Collins amendment – leaving only the study.

Debate ensued on the Senate floor. Partisan politics over voting procedures on amendments stalled debate and consideration of the transportation appropriations bill in mid-June.

As of press time, consideration of the appropriations bill had not yet resumed.

While purely speculation, D.C. insiders predict that the appropriations bill will not come up for debate again – if at all as a stand-alone bill – until after Congress’ August recess.

At that point many things can happen. Regardless of how Congress approaches it, appropriations bills have to be passed because they will expire on Sept. 30. OOIDA is encouraging truckers to stand at the ready to push back against any possible attack on the Collins amendment as the process is completed. LL