Reauthorization Process Begins Again in the Senate
The Senate Commerce Committee will most likely mark-up its portion of the Highway Reauthorization bill, Title IV, Surface Transportation Safety, next Thursday, April 14. The Committee’s portion will include motor carrier safety issues.
The Committee mark-up process will define the safety portion of the bill as it goes to the floor for a final vote either in late April or early May. After Senate passage, the Conference process will begin to reconcile differences with the House passed bill, HR 3.
Among important issues to be voted on in the mark-up will be hours-of-service exemptions for agricultural transporters and hours-of-service exemptions for utility vehicle drivers. At this point, it is not certain whether the bill, as presented to the Committee by the Chairman, will include an amendment that DOT has asked to be considered that would authorize DOT to require Mexican motor carriers operating beyond the border commercial zones to display an inspection decal issued or approved by DOT rather than the current standard requiring a CVSA decal.
Communications with Senate Commerce Committee Needed
CVSA policy position papers on all three issues are attached, along with a list of the members of the Senate Commerce Committee. You are encouraged to contact each member of the Committee stating your opposition to the agricultural and utility hours-of-service exemptions and to DOT’s proposed decal amendment. At the very least, try to contact the members of your state delegation who serve on the Commerce Committee. If you need more details on how to make sure your message gets through to the Commerce Committee members, contact Dick Henderson at CVSA headquarters.
After the Committee mark-up, a Legislative Report will be issued informing you about the actions taken by the Committee. At this point, even with final action on the Senate floor still pending, we will have a good idea of the issues to be resolved in the House-Senate Conference on the overall reauthorization bill.
The rule of thumb on “conferenceable” items is that if an issue is treated the same in both bills (either in the bill or not in the bill), it is not an item for consideration. This is not always true, but it is very hard to change things if the bills mirror each other on a particular issue.
Therefore, if the agricultural and utility hours-of-service exemptions are the same, or very close, in both bills, there is very little chance of turning things around. The House bill, HR 3, already contains a total hours-of-service exemption for utility drivers, and a very broad agricultural hours-of-service exemption (the Moran amendment) that will seriously compromise highway safety. Strong efforts are under way to include similar broad agricultural and utility hours-of-service exemptions in the Senate bill. However, your efforts can help prevent this from happening. With respect to the decal issue, Commerce Committee staff has urged us to discuss this issue with FMCSA in an effort to address their concerns about the existing CVSA inspection and decal program, obviating the need to establish a new program. This meeting is now scheduled for Tuesday, April 12, leaving a very short time between the meeting and the Commerce Committee markup expected to take place on April 14. Therefore, we also urge you to address this issue in your communication with the Senate Commerce Committee members. The attachment on this issue outlines some points for you to make. DOT’s decal amendment is not in the House bill and the goal is to keep it out of the Senate bill avoiding the need to have to address the issue in the Conference process.