HOS up for Grabs?

It’s not often that trucking regulations generate debate beyond the inner-circle of those who make their living in the industry. But new hours of service rules that took effect July 1, 2013 have gained national attention a year after they were implemented.

Over the past year, trucking industry groups have rallied against the rules—especially the new mandatory breaks and 34-hour restart—citing loss of productivity and questionable effects on safety. (Our own Mark Montague wrote about it in his blog post HOS Update: Carrier Rate Increases Don’t Cover Productivity Loss.)

In June, the issue of how many hours a trucker should drive was catapulted onto the national stage. Here are some of the highlights in the HOS debate:

July 1, 2013 – New hours of service regulations go into effect. The regulations state that drivers are permitted to be on duty for no more than 14 hours per day, with only 11 hours behind the wheel. A mandatory, 30-minute break must occur within the first eight hours. After each six-day work week, the driver must reset his clock with a 34-hour off-duty period that includes two segments from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

June 5, 2014 – Senator Susan Collins (left), a Maine Republican, proposes to suspend for one year two HOS provisions and calls for the Department of Transportation to conduct further studies. Her amendment would suspend the restart rule and the requirement of two consecutive rest periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The Senate Appropriations Committee votes 21-9 to adopt the amendment as part of the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.

June 7, 2014 – A truck on the New Jersey turnpike crashes into a limo van, killing comedian James McNair and seriously injuring comedian and TV star Tracy Morgan. Prosecutors blame the crash on fatigued driving. The story—along with the HOS debate—gains national attention. Media outlets across the country report on the issue and news commentators and the public alike express their opinions on how many hours a truck driver should be allowed to drive.

June 18, 2014 – Senator Cory Booker (left), a New Jersey Democrat, offers an amendment that would undo Collins’ previous amendment to suspend two HOS rules. The senate never votes on his proposal, as debate on a bill was pulled from the senate floor after procedural objections were raised regarding the vote threshold on amendments.

What’s next – The appropriations bill is not expected to return to the floor for debate until an agreement on considering amendments is reached. It has been placed back on the legislative calendar.

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