Restart provision in place until study is completed

By Jami Jones, managing editor

Truckers using the voluntary restart provision won't have to change the way they use it, even if the government lets the current appropriations language expire at some point.

Since December 2014, truckers have been able to use the voluntary 34-hour restart provision when they need it rather than limiting it to once every seven days, and it does not have to include two overnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. stints. That flexibility is thanks to the now-dubbed Collins Amendment introduced and passed into the federal government's 2015 appropriations bill.

Every year, legislation is put together that funds federal government operations for the upcoming fiscal year. The federal government's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 each year.

Funding for the 2015 fiscal year was passed and signed into law in December 2014. It included an amendment that mandated changes to the voluntary 34-hour restart, which were introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The Collins amendment suspended the overnight provisions and the restriction on using the restart once every seven days while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducts a comprehensive study - with input from the Office of Inspector General - to see if these changes were justified.

Even though the appropriations bill wasn't signed into law until December 2014, it expired at the end of September. Congress passed an extension of the current funding, until 2016 appropriations can be passed and signed into law.

Regardless of the extension, the changes to the voluntary restart provision will stay in place until the mandated study is completed, Land Line has learned. Release of study results is expected in late 2015.

Language is included in the 2016 appropriations Transportation Housing and Urban Development bill. It would continue the current provision if the Department of Transportation cannot prove to Congress that the once-per-week restriction and mandated two overnight periods actually improved safety on the roads.

As of press time, the bill had not been passed and signed into law. It remains unclear whether it will proceed as a stand-alone bill or be lumped into a larger "omnibus" bill with some or all of the other 11 appropriations bills that must pass to fund the government in 2016. LL