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34-hour Restart Restrictions Halted

On December 16, 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015. This bill is best known as the 1600-page spending bill that prevents a government shutdown in 2015. Also included in the appropriation bill is a rollback to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's 2013 Hours of Service rule that restricted the use of the 34-hour restart for drivers of commercial motor vehicles.

A driver of a commercial motor vehicle may not drive his or her vehicle after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty (See www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hos for more information). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration limited the ability to use the 34-hour restart with 2 rules implemented in 2013. First, the 34-hour period must include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Second, the restart could only be used once per week. These new rules were intended to require drivers to obtain two nights of sleep (rather than one) with the intention of allowing drivers to become more rested and alert. However, trucking industry groups did not support these restrictions to the 34-hour restart, arguing that the new rules resulted in more trucks being operated during peak "rush hour" times and a decrease in drivers' time at home.

The new bill signed into law last week suspends the limitations on the 34-hour restart until at least September 30, 2015. It also requires the FMCSA to further study the rules and their impact on safety, health, and carrier operations. The rules will not go back into effect at least until the FMCSA completes the study and presents the findings to Congress. Thus, until further notice, the drivers of commercial motor vehicles are not required to comply with the 34-hour restart restrictions implemented in 2013. For more information, see the bill at: http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20141208/CPRT-113-HPRT-RU00-HR83sa.pdf .

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