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Friday, August 2, 2013

House Pulls Transport Appropriations Measure that would have removed Truckers Hours of Service Requirement

As Reported  by Trucking Info: Just as the House was set to consider an amendment that would reverse the recent changes in truck driver hours-of-service rules, leaders pulled the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill from the floor.

It was evident that the bill, which would have implemented the $44 billion budget the House adopted three months ago, did not have enough support, said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

A close follower of the issue said that all of the Democrats in the House opposed the bill because it cut too much, while some Republicans opposed it for the same reason and others because it cut too little.

In theory the House could take up the bill again after its August recess, but Rogers does not think it likely.

“I am extremely disappointed with the decision to pull the bill from the House calendar today,” he said in a statement.

“The prospects for passing this bill in September are bleak at best, given the vote count on passage that was apparent this afternoon.”

Rogers said the bill was the “best possible effort” to fund transportation and housing programs while making budget cuts. The bill would cut $4.4 billion from current spending, to a level below what the programs had in 2006, he said.

“I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration – and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts – must be brought to an end,” Rogers said.

He also said that the higher funding levels in the Senate’s $55 billion appropriations bill are not achievable. The Senate is considering its bill Wednesday and Thursday.

The House’s move could lead to use of a Continuing Resolution to keep these programs funded while until both chambers can pass and reconcile an appropriations bill.

Hours of Service
Before the bill was pulled the House was going to consider a proposal by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and several others to cut off funding for implementation or enforcement of the hours-of-service rule that went into effect on July 1. It would leave the prior rule in place.

The amendment is supported by 16 trucking and shipping interests, including American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and UPS, as well as the Transportation Intermediaries Association, the National Retail Federation and the National Grocers Association.

Hanna, joined by Reps. Tom Rice, R-S.C., Trey Radel, R-Fla., and Todd Rokita, R-Ind., said in a Dear Colleague letter that the new rule decreases driver flexibility and raises costs – complaints that have been aired by all of the industry interests.

His letter also notes that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is working on a field study of the 34-hour restart provision of the revised rule.

“Common sense dictates that the field study should be completed before the issuance of the final rule,” Hanna and his colleagues wrote. “Nonetheless, the study is still ongoing and the final rule has been put into effect.”

Earlier this month a FMCSA spokesperson said that data collection for the study was on track to be done by the end of July.

Congress ordered the study in last year’s highway bill, at the insistence of ATA.

The association’s view was that the agency should confirm in the field a finding from a laboratory study that daytime sleep is not as restorative as nighttime sleep.

That finding is the scientific basis for the new requirement that a driver take two periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during his 34-hour restart.

It remains to be seen if the data from the field study will be persuasive enough for the agency to reconsider its approach to the restart.