FMCSA formally removes restart requirements from regulations

September 11, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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In a final rule set to publish on Thursday, Sept. 12, the FMCSA is formally removing provisions within its hours-of-service rules that placed significant restrictions on the use of a 34-hour restart.

Congress had already suspended these provisions in a series of appropriations acts, but the provisions have remained in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Hours-of-service rules enacted in 2011 included restrictions on the use of the voluntary 34-hour restart provision. The restrictions limited its use to once every 168 hours and required that a restart include two periods between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced an amendment to the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill that would suspend the requirement of two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. overnights during the restart and would allow more than one restart in a seven-day period. The suspension would remain in place until a study was conducted on the provisions to determine if they added value to the restart option.

“We thank Senator Collins and the supportive members of the committee for their work on this important amendment,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said after Collins introduced her amendment. “Truckers have long pointed out the negative impacts of the 2013 changes on their ability to get rest, stay out of busy city traffic, spend time at home, and make a family-supporting income.”

The amendment eventually became part of the 2015 appropriations language and led to the study that found there were no benefits to the provision. All the while, the provisions remained suspended, pending this final rule.

“These restrictions proved problematic for many drivers and carriers, adversely affecting their operations and generating significant controversy,” the FMCSA wrote in the final rule.

In response, Congress suspended the restrictions subject to a study of the effectiveness of the rule. Subsequent legislation stated that the study would need to show a statistically significant improvement in multiple factors to take effect. A March 2017 report to Congress confirmed that there were “no statistically significant benefits accrued from the 2011 HOS restart rule.” Therefore, the 2011 restart rule provisions were voided.

FMCSA’s final rule will remove the provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations in hopes of eliminating confusion.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is supportive of the final rule.

“OOIDA opposed the 1 a.m.-5 a.m. restart provisions since they were hastily approved in 2011,” said Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs. “These provisions were not based on any sound research and did not provide any safety benefits when they were in effect. Although the restrictive restart rules were eventually suspended and have not been enforced for some time, we are glad that they will be finally removed from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.”

The final rule becomes effective once it is published in the Federal Register.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, staff writer, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.