Three congressmen on Thursday proposed legislation that would block the restart provision in the current federal hours-of-service rules
until the Government Accountability Office conducts an independent review of the data and rationale used by the Department of Transportation for its decision.
Under the new rules aimed at curbing driver fatigue, which went into effect July 1, commercial drivers who reach their 70-hour weekly driving limit must restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. The DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says a driver's 24-hour body clock requires two nights' rest for drivers to function safely, but the trucking industry argues questions the scientific basis of that assertion.
In August, Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Tom Rice, R-S.C., and two other Republicans sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking the FMCSA to produce a report on the potential impact of the 34-hour restart provision that was supposed to be issued months earlier.
Michael Michaud, D-Maine, also co-authored the True Safety Act. The bill would reinstate the 34-hour restart rules that were in place prior to July 1, and the new restart rule could not be re-implemented until six months after GAO submits its assessment to Congress.
The lawmakers are concerned the rules' rest periods are not flexible enough and will hurt motor carriers. They said the new rules potentially cause more congestion during peak morning travel and could push drivers to be more aggressive during the hours they spend on the road.
"It is wrongheaded for the federal government to impose an arbitrary and capricious regulation that impacts almost every sector of the American economy without first finishing a study on its effectiveness," Rep. Hanna said in a statement. "Federal agencies should have an obligation to prove that new rules and regulations do not cause more harm than good — in terms of both safety and costs."
Rep. Rice said, “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation because our American truckers are being held to a new un-tested standard that limits their productivity and ultimately – their profitability. Congress required the FMSCA is to complete a comprehensive study before imposing new hours of service standards on our truckers. Instead, the agency has abused its authority and is requiring truckers to comply with one of the most stringent parts of its regulation prior to receiving their study’s findings. This legislation will rein in FMSCA and postpone the new untested hours of service regulation until its study is complete and require an additional study to ensure that our truckers are not being overregulated.”
In a statement, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said, “This bill would simply do what should have been done in the first place: delay implementation until we really know the true operational impacts, costs and safety benefits.”
A recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute, the ATA's research arm, found that the changes FMCSA made to the restart will ultimately have a net annual cost of up to $376 million, rather than the net benefit of $133 million the agency claimed in its rule.
“We had hoped FMCSA would’ve listened to reason when we asked them to delay initially, but we hope they’ll listen to Congress and rethink these changes,” Graves said.