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Commerce Committee Moves Reauthorization Titles

Commerce Committee Moves Reauthorization Titles

Earlier this week, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up several bills, including the FMCSA, HazMat and NHTSA titles, completing most of their work for the reauthorization. Despite some contention over a non-related freight provision, the motor carrier safety bill was reported out of Committee, though it was approved by the Committee on a party line vote.

The Commerce bill contains a number of positive items for CVSA. First and foremost, funding levels are kept steady and additional flexibility is provided with MCSAP grant funds. In addition, the bill addresses a number of key CVSA issues, such as maintenance of effort (MOE), registration and new entrant requirements to help address the chameleon carrier threat; fine limits; CDL and driver training requirements; EOBRs; safety rating reciprocity with Canada; development of a drug and alcohol clearinghouse; comprehensive truck size & weight study; motorcoach safety; and, the impact to safety and the existing regulatory framework.

However, work remains to be done on the bill, particularly regarding the grant funding levels, administration and distribution, matching requirements and the takedowns for training. The bill calls for an increase in the administrative take down from the basic MCSAP program from 1.25% to 1.5%. In addition, it decreases the requirement for non-government employee expenditures from 75% to 50%. The bill also adds a 1.4% administrative take down from the new Driver Training grant program. In addition, the border grants program has been reduced from a 100% federal share to at least 80% federal. CVSA staff has been discussing our concerns on this issue with staff. We’ll continue to work with them, as well as their colleagues on the House side, to ensure that States receive the funds they need.

With the EPW and Commerce titles complete, the Senate is now waiting on the Banking Committee, which is responsible for the transit piece of the bill, and the Finance Committee, in charge of finding the necessary funding for the overall package. However, Finance Chairman Max Baucus had not publicly identified a source for the $12 billion necessary to close the funding gap.