In June, the House of Representatives passed the T-HUD 2016 budget bill with several provisions that herald good news for the trucking industry. Vehicle size allowances and insurance restrictions among other provisions appear set to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, but the bill is still in danger of a veto.
Preventing insurance price hikes.
Small business owners rallied againstan amendment to the bill that would have allowed insurance costs to spike by increasing coverage requirements. The House of Representatives voted the amendment down 175-248, which will effectively freeze current insurance requirements. According to data from the FMCSA, current insurance requirements cover more than 99 percent of crashes, and even a significant rise in premiums would not increase this number by more than a fraction.
Thorough testing of hours of service restart restrictions.
In July 2013, a new set of restrictions went into action that changed the way truck drivers are required to take time for sleep came into effect. The restrictions stated that drivers who work maximized hours must take two nights of rest between 1am and 5am, and allows them to ‘reset’ their body clock with 34 consecutive hours off duty. This reset period was restricted to once per seven days.
In December of 2014, the 60/70-Hour Limit provisions were suspended by congress. They are to be re-evaluated upon completion of a study commissioned by the FMCSA, run by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The bill will require the FMCSA to demonstrate “statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health, longevity, and work schedules” during the implementation of the provisions during July 2013 and December 2014. The results are not expected until 2016, and if the results aren’t satisfactory the 2013 changes could be completely prohibited.
Allowing twin 33 foot trailers.
In recent years there have been many calls for an increase in trailer size limits. Twin 33 foot trailers would, according to American Trucking Association, benefit productivity and safety in the industry. However the White House has expressed concerns over this provision as well as others, noting that money isn’t being invested in making roads adequate for the increased sizes.
Danger of a White House veto.
The White House has several concerns with the bill. As well as their hang-ups around road safety in regards to 33 foot twin trailers, there have been concerns about the burden of proof requirements placed upon the FMCSA. The White House policy statement reads that “the bill imposes criteria that would in all likelihood be impossible to meet, therefore preventing critical safety provisions from taking effect.”
By the tone of the White House, which “strongly objects” to the bill in broad and specific terms, the future for these trucking-friendly provisions is uncertain. Among chief concerns are the impact on public safety caused by increasing weight and size limits, and the removal of the 2013 rest hours provisions. Rep. David Price was quoted as concerned that “these modifications risk putting the bottom line of the trucking industry above driver safety.” The ATA disagrees on the issue of safety, however, noting that the 34 hour reset provisions force drivers into riskier daytime driving situations. The debate is ongoing, but a veto seems to be in the cards.
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