Congress Moves Forward on FY2016 Appropriations Bill

Earlier this week, Congress released the text of the negotiated omnibus spending bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016. The bill provides funding for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2016, and includes a number of policy provisions as well. The House approved the measure earlier today and sent it over to the Senate for consideration. While there is some opposition in the Senate to approving the final funding bill, it is likely to pass the body, given that it was negotiated by leadership. However, because the latest continuing resolution expired last night, Congress was forced to pass another short term extension on Wednesday, December 16, this one through December 22.

The bill keeps funding levels for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) and other associated grants in line with FY2015 funding levels. This is also consistent with the funding levels set in the recently passed reauthorization bill (see Dec. 11 Update).
Total FY 2015 MCSAP Funding – $313,000,000

  • Basic MCSAP – $218,000,000
    • New Entrant Safety Audits – $32,000,000
    • High Priority Grants – $15,000,000
  • Border Enforcement Grants – $32,000,000
  • Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks Deployment (CVISN) – $25,000,000
  • Performance and Registration Information System Management program (PRISM) – $5,000,000
  • Safety Data Improvement Grants – $3,000,000
  • Commercial Driver’s License Improvements Program (CDL) – $30,000,000

On the policy side, the bill includes a number of provisions of interest to the commercial motor vehicle safety community.

  • The bill makes adjustments to and establishes several new exemptions.
    • Eliminates the 2031 sunset date for the Maine and Vermont weight exemption found in Sec. 127(a)(11) (A) & (B) of Title 23, United States Code (U.S.C.).
    • Creates a new weight exemption, up to 129,000 lbs. for Idaho.
    • Prohibits the Secretary from prohibiting a state from issuing a commercial learner’s permit to individuals under the age of 18 if state law authorized such issuance as of May 9, 20 11.
    • Adds Kansas to the custom harvester exemption currently in place for Nebraska.
    • Adds the transportation of passengers by 9 to 15 passenger motor vehicles operated by youth or family camps that provide recreational or educational activities to the list of exempted entities under Sec. 13506(a) of Title 49, U.S.C
  • Regarding the ongoing suspension of the restart provisions of the hours of service regulations, the bill sets additional parameters that must be met before the restart provision can be reinstated.
  • The bill prohibits FMCSA from denying a HM Special Permit based on a carrier’s OOS rate without first giving the carrier an opportunity to submit a corrective action plan.
  • Language in the bill and the accompanying explanatory statement inform DOT that Congress does not consider the Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight technical report completed earlier this year as sufficient to meet the agency’s obligations on the issue and directs the agency to transmit to Congress a final study within 60 days of enactment.
  • In addition, the DOT lnspector General is directed to conduct an audit within five years of FMCSA’s execution and compliance with the crossborder long-haul trucking program.
  • FMCSA is prohibited from implementing or testing its Wireless Roadside Inspection (WRI) program until the agency certifies that the WRI program will not interfere with private programs already in place.
  • Language in the bill also continues the requirement that FMCSA send notice of 49 CFR section 385.308 violations by certified mail, registered mail, or some other manner of delivery which records receipt of the notice by the persons responsible for the violations.