Senate Updates and Passes Hours of Service Bill
There has been much debate and discussion about hours-of-service rules in the trucking industry throughout recent years. The issue stems from complaints that truckers spend too many consecutive hours or too many hours in a week’s time on the road without proper rest. This could be in an effort to make more money or to appease a dispatcher. Mandatory “restart” provisions were created from a 2011 bill. And though they came into effect in July of 2013, they were suspended by Congress in late 2014 due to issues with wording.
But a recent transportation funding bill passed by the Senate contains a fix of the previous hours-of-service provision that many considered to be arbitrary and capricious. Truckers and administrators voiced strong objections to previous restart provisions from the beginning. Their opposition stemmed from the fact that while the provision may appease the general public, it would do little in the way of actually facilitating safer driving habits for truckers.
In addition to fixing the previous language, the current bill also includes a deadline for issuing a federal speed limit mandate for Class 7-8 trucks. The Department of Transportation would be responsible for reaching a final ruling on this issue. The Senate bill aims to prevent drivers from abusing the restart rule, and sets a maximum weekly hour cap of 73. This would be the first change to the restart provision since those from the 2011 bill were suspended.
The bill is for $56.5 billion in funding, and includes nearly $17 billion in appropriations for the Department of Transportation. In addition to this, the bill sends $44 billion to the Federal-aid Highways Program. This funding comes from the Highway Trust Fund and is consistent with measures of the FAST Act highway bill from late 2015. This updated funding bill may have long-lasting effects on the trucking industry for the next few years.