Post Series: From the President

Hours of Service in Limbo

For a few weeks now, ATA has known of a glitch in the FAST Act, the 2015 highway bill. ATA has been working behind the scenes to help the Congress undo one of those dreaded “unintended consequences”. Over the last 10 days ATA has kept us state trucking associations apprised of their efforts, and I have passed those along to our Board of Directors. The issue has just become public.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, FTA needs to widen the communication to all our carriers. As you know, the 34-hour restart has been around for a number of years and gave trucking companies a relatively flexible way to handle hours of service. However, three years ago FMCSA deemed that the 34-hour restart had to include TWO consecutive periods from 1-5 a.m. This provision severely limited hours of service flexibility AND effectively put all drivers coming off a restart into their trucks at the most traffic congested time of day and the most dangerous. Congress in 2014 suspended that FMCSA rule until a research study was completed. During the suspension, we went back to the prior 34-hour restart provision.

Here’s the problem. When the 2015 FAST Act was passed, Congress raised the bar and made it clear that FMCSA could only reinstitute its more onerous 34-hour restart provision if the results of the study proved major advantages in safety. That’s a good thing, right? Right. Unfortunately, one little clause was left out—namely, that we would go back to the prior restart rules. USDOT and FMCSA are concluding that, if the study supports their position, we will have their tough restart. But if the study doesn’t support their position, we will have no restart at all. And that’s not a good thing.

Now, FTA isn’t going to practice law on this and tell you what to do. The research results should be released in a short while. In the meantime, ATA has been directed by its Executive Committee to negotiate with Congress to see whether a fix can be quickly made. Nobody is happy right now, as far as I can tell, but most are hopeful. It does seem prudent at the moment to “wait and see” what comes out of the conversations in Congress and with USDOT.

FTA will let you know as we learn more. ATA has promised frequent communications to us state trucking associations. Hang in there.

PS – You can read a great article on the problem at CCJ online.