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DOT 2010 APPROPRIATIONS BILL FINALLY PASSES BY CONGRESS

DOT 2010 APPROPRIATIONS BILL FINALLY PASSES BY CONGRESS

FMCSA Budget Gets Slight Increase
Over the week-end, the U.S. Congress finally passed the DOT 2010 Appropriations Bill after passing several Continuing Resolutions (CR) since September 30. President Obama is expected to sign it by December 18 when the current CR expires. The bill provides a 1.6% increase for FMCSA and its various programs, to include state motor carrier safety grants. This slight increase is provided in the absence of any new authorized ceiling because a new Reauthorization bill has not yet been passed. The language from the House-Senate Conference Report is attached showing specific program amounts as well as comments on high risk carriers, EOBR’s and research and technology education.

Maine and Vermont Given Size and Weight Exemptions
Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont requested (and received in the appropriations bill) exemptions from the 80,000 lb. weight limit (allowed up to 100,000 lbs.) on sections of the Interstate System in both states. Attached is the legislative and report language for Section 194 of the bill. The economic argument advanced by both Senators is that both Maine and Vermont are surrounded by states/jurisdictions that for one reason or another already have the weight limit exemption on their portions of the Interstate System. The exemptions are provided through a one year pilot program. However, neither the legislative or report language indicate the details of the pilot. Section 194 sets the stage for a more intense size and weight debate which is certain to take place as further consideration of the Reauthorization bill gets underway. Attached is CVSA’s Reauthorization Size and Weight policy which, among other things, states that any motor carrier operating under a size and weight pilot program in the U.S. should be in full compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Timeline for Reauthorization Still Uncertain
The Appropriations bill just passed did not contain language extending SAFETEA-LU. The current extension expires this Friday, December 18. Congress will most certainly not allow the current highway, safety, and transit programs to expire. However, just when and how this will be done prior to midnight on Friday is not clear. Stay tuned, we will keep you advised.

Potential Senate Commerce Committee Markup of Bus Safety Bill
A potential markup of a bus safety bill by the Senate Commerce Committee this coming Thursday, December 17 has not yet been confirmed. Ranking Minority Committee Member, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas has drafted a new bill that differs from her original bill, S. 554, that she co-sponsored with Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. It is reported to be more “moderate” than S. 554. More details on this as things unfold.

FMCSA Rule Setting 2010 UCR Registration Fees Delayed
Efforts by FMCSA to issue new Unified Carrier Registration fees for 2010 have been delayed. The new rule was to have been issued by October 15. However, at both the October and November UCR Board teleconference calls, FMCSA representatives said the process for issuing a new rule was on track and would be coming out soon. They further reported that the rule had not been deemed to be economically significant thereby obviating a more lengthy review by the Office of Management and Budget. In the November 12 call, UCR Board members discussed the fact that if the rule were issued by December 1, there would still be time for the registration notices reflecting the 2010 fee schedule to be sent out to carriers by January 1, 2010. The rule was not issued by December 1 and on the UCR Board’s December 10 teleconference call, FMCSA representatives reported that due to heightened public interest there is a possibility the rule could be deemed to be “significant” thereby requiring more time for review by OMB. If this is the case, it is estimated that the rule could be delayed until at least March, 2010 and possibly later. This could jeopardize receipt of 2010 UCR revenues that many states depend on for funding of motor carrier safety enforcement. Last week, CVSA, NCSTS (National Conference of State Transportation Specialists) and NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) sent a letter to FMCSA outlining our concerns with respect to this issue. The letter is attached, along with the comments CVSA supplied to the fee rulemaking in September. We are monitoring this very closely and will keep you apprised of information as it becomes available.