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House Holds Hearings on Fiscal 2018 Funding and FAST Act Implementation

Fiscal 2018 Funding

On July 17, 2017, the House Transportation Appropriations Committee held a hearing to consider their draft appropriations bill (specific details below) for the coming fiscal year. The bill, which was approved along party lines, funds the CMV-related grants at the full FAST levels for fiscal 2018, which for most is an increase over fiscal 2017 levels. It’s unclear at this point whether the bill will continue to the House floor on its own or if leadership will seek to roll it together with other spending bills. The Senate has begun work on their bill as well and the two will have to be reconciled at some point.

     Program   Fiscal 2017   Fiscal 2018
MCSAP Formula $292.6 million $298.9 million
High Priority $  42.2 million $  43.1 million
CDL $  31.2 million $  31.8 million
CMV Operators $       1 million $       1 million

 

In addition to setting funding levels, the bill contains a number of policy riders impacting the CMV community:

  • ELD Implementation – The committee report directs FMCSA to consider whether or not a partial or full delay in implementation of the ELD requirement is appropriate and report back to the committee within 60 days.
  • ELD Exemption – The bill provides an exemption from the ELD requirement for motor carriers of livestock and insects.
  • Weight Exemption – The bill adds North Dakota to Idaho’s current 129,000 lb. exemption.
  • 30-Minute Rest Break Exemptions – The committee report also directs FMCSA to take into consideration drivers that make multiple stops throughout the day when considering 30-minute rest break exemption requests.
  • Safety Fitness Determination – The bill prohibits FMCSA from moving forward with their SFD rulemaking until the Inspector General’s office certifies that the agency has made the changes recommended in the recently released study by the National Academies on the CSA program.
  • Bus Lease and Interchange Rule – The bill directs FMCSA to publish a formal notice of proposed rulemaking to make changes to the agency’s Bus Lease and Interchange Rule.
  • CSA – The committee report directs FMCSA to make SMS data available to motor carrier insurers and to expedite completion of the recommendations from the National Academies report on the CSA program, so that scores can once again be made available to the public.
  • Automated Vehicles – The bill permits FMCSA to use $100 million in unspent funds from previous fiscal years to fund a highly automated commercial vehicle research and development program.
  • WRI – While the bill itself does not include long standing language prohibiting FMCSA from moving forward with a wireless roadside, the committee report does direct the Secretary to monitor the program and to avoid creating conflicts with private systems.
  • Truck Underride Guards – The committee report also directs NHTSA to move forward with a rulemaking to update truck rear impact guard requirements.
  • Rest Break Preemption – The bill includes language that preempts the states from setting meal and rest break requirements for interstate carriers beyond those set by FMCSA.

FAST Act Implementation Hearing

On July 18, 2017, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing on “FAST Act Implementation: Improving the Safety of the Nation’s Roads.” Witnesses included:

  • Mr. Walter Waidelich, Jr., Acting Deputy Administrator, Federal Highway Administration – Written Testimony
  • Mrs. Daphne Jefferson, Deputy Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – Written Testimony
  • Mr. Jack Danielson, Acting Deputy Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Written Testimony
  • The Honorable T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, Member, National Transportation Safety Board – Written Testimony

Deputy Administrator Jefferson’s testimony focused on how FMCSA is working to improve safety. As part of her testimony, she announced that FMCSA will be unveiling a 24-month demonstration program later this week that will look at factoring crash accountability into the SMS data. In addition, the agency is working on advanced driving systems and truck platooning, as well as implementation of rulemakings on ELDs, the drug and alcohol clearing house, and entry level driver training. Questions for FMCSA focused on delaying ELD implementation, the recent National Academies study on the SMS program, CSA, the entry level driver training rule, and driver detention issues. In addition, Congressman Perry discussed his motorcoach bill with the Deputy Administrator.

Testimony from the other witnesses focused on the rising number of roadway crashes and fatalities and outlined priorities for addressing the issue. A number of the witnesses mentioned distraction as a key concern and several touched on the need to prepare properly for the coming advancements in vehicle technologies. Automated vehicles were discussed at length, but witnesses also touched on the need to better use technologies that are currently available, some of which, like collision avoidance, are actually levels of automation themselves. Drug and alcohol impairment issues were discussed, with a focus on providing enforcement with an impairment standard for marijuana usage. Witnesses were also asked to comment on the administration’s requirement that agencies eliminate two regulations for every one they put in place.

View the hearing recording