CVSA President To Congressional Subcommittee:
Impact of Size, Weight Must Be Considered Before Changing Standards
CVSA President John E. Harrison, testifying on July 9 before a hearing to assess the impacts of existing truck size and weight regulations, said that several enforcement issues must be resolved first before any decisions are made that would change existing standards. The House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit is very likely to make changes to existing policies in next year’s reauthorization bill, but just what the nature of those changes will be remains to be seen.
Problems that can make enforcement difficult include a lack of uniformity of the standards and permitting processes among the states and even within state boundaries, lack of federal funding to cover costs of enforcement such as enforcement salaries and lack of data to determine if there is a correlation of oversize/overweight vehicles and their safety performance. Harrison said that many inspectors in the field believe there is such a correlation based on their experience, but that there is a lack of organized data to confirm this.
In addition to President Harrison, witnesses included representatives form the Federal Highway Administration, several state Departments of Transportation and industry. Those who support an increase in truck size and weights cited the need to become more energy efficient as well as to reduce traffic congestion and those raising questions about any increase cited highway safety concerns.
As far as determining what changes to the existing size and weight standards should be made, Harrison called for a stronger federal role in facilitating a framework for research, policy and performance based regulations, safety considerations and strengthening enforcement of size and weight regulations on both the Interstate and National Highway Systems. Inclusion of the National Highway System is important because crash data indicates that a larger proportion of fatal crashes are occurring on non-interstate highways.
Harrison said that such a framework could be accomplished by the establishment of a Commercial Traffic Effects Institute (CTEI) that would examine size and weight issues in an objective and systematic manner. He referenced a Transportation Research Board report done in 2003 that recommended creation of a CTEI.
“Taking a piecemeal approach through legislation or policy for short term political or economic gains in our view is not the most productive course of action for the long term,” Harrison said.
The full text of President Harrison’s testimony is available on CVSA’s website at www.cvsa.org/.
2009 Appropriations Process Bogs Down
Although the 2009 DOT Appropriations bill that includes motor carrier safety funding has cleared both the Subcommittee and full Appropriations Committee on the Senate side, and the Subcommittee on the House side, it is very unlikely that Congress will complete work on this and other appropriations bills in this session of Congress. There will probably be a Continuing Resolution (CR) extending 2008 funding levels well into calendar year 2009 when the next President and next Congress will put their stamp on funding levels for 2009.
This means that MCSAP will continue to be funded at $202 million (‘08 level) instead of $209 which is the authorized funding level set in SAFETEA-LU for 2009 and which the Appropriations Committees have already provided for in their recent markups. The other state grant programs are funded at the same levels for 2008 and 2009 and are as follows:
$25 M – CDL programs
$32 M – Border Enforcement
$ 5 M – PRISM
$ 3 M – Safety Data
$ 8 M – CDLIS Modernization
$25 M – CVISN
Truck Safety Technology Bill Gains Momentum with 16 Additional Co-Sponsors
HR 3820, the “Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Technology Tax Act of 2007” which provides tax credits for motor carriers when they purchase collision warning, lane departure, vehicle stability and brake stroke monitoring systems, now has 16 additional co-sponsors in the House.
The act was introduced in the House last October by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Ron Lewis (R-KY) and will be introduced in the Senate before the August recess with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) as the lead sponsors.
Realistically, the Congress will not have time to complete work on this bill before it adjourns this fall. But the more support the bill has in this, the 110th Congress, the greater the chance of it being included in a safety technology title in next year’s reauthorization bill.
EOBR Legislation Possible
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) may be preparing to introduce a bill mandating EOBR’s before Congress adjourns this fall. As is the case with the truck safety technology bill, it is not expected that Congress will take action on the EOBR bill in this session, but it’s introduction will be a marker for next year’s reauthorization bill.