Congress passes ‘fix’ to 34-hour restart

Truck drivers may continue to get a restart at any time

Posted December 12, 2016

The U.S. Congress has passed a temporary spending bill that will keep the 34-hour restart option in place for the foreseeable future.

Known as a Continuing Resolution, the legislation passed Friday evening within hours of the government needing to shut down for lack of funding. President Obama signed the bill into law early Saturday. It will keep the federal government funded through the end of April 2017.

The legislation includes a provision that says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cannot enforce two restrictions it had placed on the 34-hour restart option in July 2013 unless the agency can show that those restrictions significantly improve safety and health.

The restrictions include a requirement that each restart break include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and be limited to once per week. Those restrictions, found in 49 CFR Sec. 395.3, have not been enforced since December 2014.

The FMCSA studied the effects of the restart restrictions in late 2015 but has not yet issued a mandatory final report to Congress.

Friday’s legislation fixes an error that Congress inadvertently included in an earlier appropriations bill signed into law in December 2015. That legislation said the restart option itself — not just the July 2013 restrictions — would have to go away entirely if the FMCSA is not able to show that the restrictions are effective.

The fix means the restart provision is here to stay no matter what the FMCSA’s study shows. However, if the study reveals significant benefits from having a more restricted restart, then the two restrictions may again be enforced.

The restart provision allows truck drivers to reset their weekly accumulation of on-duty time by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty.

The FMCSA has not indicated when it will provide its final report to Congress.

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