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A Brief Look: The Hours of Service Rules, 34-Hour Restart, P.2

Previously, we began discussing the federal hours of service rules, which put limitations on the amount of time truck drivers may be behind the wheel on a daily and weekly basis and prescribe regular break times. As we noted last time, one of the rules that is currently in limbo is the so-called 34-hour restart rule.

The rule is a controversial one in the trucking industry because it is widely considered to be a burdensome restriction on truckers which doesn’t necessarily increase roadway safety. The industry has objected to the rule on the grounds that it increases daytime roadway congestion and may thereby actually contribute to truck accidents. Proponents of the rule, though, say that it ensures truckers are adequately rested. 

The rule is currently not binding after having been suspended in 2013 pending further research about its effectiveness. Lawmakers do not have a consensus on the matter, and this can be seen with recent proposals involving the restart provision. Last month, the House Appropriations Committee released a funding bill that would make the suspension permanent. That proposal was in contrast to a funding bill proposed by the Senate, which made the restart provision dependent on the conclusions reached by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in its study of the rule.

All of this is important not only with respect to improving highway safety but also for those who have been harmed by a negligent trucker. Failure to abide by trucking safety rules can serve as a basis for liability in truck accident cases. We’ll pick back up on this point in our next post.