In late 2014, Congress ordered the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to suspend the enforcement of some of the provisions related to the 34-hour restart. The 34-hour restart requires drivers to take two rest breaks between 1 am to 5 am as part of their 34-hour off-duty periods and to wait 168 hours from the start of one restart period to the beginning of the next.
The suspension was supposed to remain in effect until the Department of Transportation (DOT) conducted a study to determine whether or not the more restrictive provisions provided “a greater net benefit for the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts.”
Then in December 2015, President Obama signed into law a fiscal 2016 omnibus funding bill that requires the DOT to finally conclude the study on the restart rule to see how the rule offers improvements “related to safety, operator fatigue, and driver health.” But, the American Trucking Associations recently learned that the bill is missing an important sentence in the bill.
Apparently the omnibus bill states that the rule suspension can only be lifted if the DOT can determine that commercial motor vehicle drivers who operated under the restart provisions in effect between July 1, 2013 and the day before the restart provisions were suspended “demonstrated statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules, in comparison to commercial motor vehicle drivers who operated under the restart provisions in effect on June 20, 2013.”
What’s unclear is what the DOT is supposed to do after the completion of the study. What happens if the DOT study determines that the controversial modifications are beneficial? Without the necessary language and actions in the bill, the DOT would have to completely remove the entire 34-hour restart provision when the study is complete and released to the public.
Many fleet owners and independent drivers hope that the unlimited restart, without the 2013 limitations, will be the safer options and the DOT will permanently lift the 2013 limitations. Currently the DOT has not provided any sort of timeline when the study will be published so stay tuned. The final verdict could change your work schedule in the future.