Reauthorization and Related Issues

Reauthorization and Related Issues

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) is now writing the Reauthorization bill and it is expected to be reported out of the Committee by late May or early June. House T&I Chairman, James Oberstar (D-MN), anticipates action to follow shortly on the House floor. This report details CVSA actions on a number of Reauthorization and related issues.

Agricultural and Utility Hours-of-Service Exemptions

The analysis done by DOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center on the safety effects of these exemptions granted in SAFETEA-LU is attached along with the accompanying press release. The study found that agricultural carriers operating exclusively within a 100-mile radius had a 19 percent higher crash rate than agricultural carriers operating outside a 100-mile radius during the period of 2005-2007. The study also showed that utility service motor carrier crash rates jumped by 40 percent during this same period.

In addition to calling for the repeal of the agricultural and utility hours-of-service exemption, the release explains CVSA’s policy on calling for the sun-setting by a date certain and reapplication of all other safety exemptions. Re-application means that data must be presented to the DOT in accordance with Section 31315 of Title 49, U.S. Code, showing that the particular exemption must not compromise highway safety.

Copies of both the analysis and news release are being sent to every member of the House T&I Committee.

Bus Axle Weight Exemption

Attached is a letter to the House Committee supporting the existing limited exemption from axle-weight limits for the over-the-road buses and transit buses for the duration of the Reauthorization bill. This exemption was obtained in the 2006 DOT Appropriations bill and will expire September 30, 2009 unless it is renewed.

CVSA Bus Safety Policy

After comprehensive discussion by both the Passenger Carrier Committee and the Executive Committee, CVSA’s bus safety policy has been approved and submitted to the House T&I Committee. CVSA’s Bus Safety Summit held in early March helped both Committees arrive at a consensus on a number of the key issues. CVSA has had a follow-up discussion with House T&I staff on the issue of en-route bus inspections and recommended against keeping the specific prohibition of roadside inspections in the law (this was a provision in SAFETEA-LU). CVSA pointed out that this is a policy issue that should not be decided by statute which limits the needed flexibility of the states in this regard. To set reasonable guidelines on the conditions for roadside bus inspections should be a matter dealt with in Section 350 of the FMCSR.

Maintenance of Effort (MOE)

CVSA has also had follow-up discussions with House T&I staff on the issue of MOE with respect to the MCSAP grant. The Committee appears to understand the objections CVSA has voiced about the formula provided in SAFETEA-LU. We are continuing to provide information to them on this matter. It is too early to know what, if any, resolution of this issue will be contained in the bill. At a minimum, we might hope that the formula will be changed to an average of the same three years for the life of the bill. We have, however, also pointed out to them the very strong case many of you have made to eliminate MOE altogether.

Uniform Carrier Registration Program

In our last Legislative Update, we reported on the letter sent by Gov. Graves, President of ATA, to all governors objecting to the proposed new 2010 fee structure by the UCR Board, and more importantly, calling for the repeal of the entire program. The attached letter, signed by the Executive Directors of CVSA, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the National Conference of State Transportation Specialists, responds to Governor Graves’ letter. A copy has been forwarded to the House T & I Committee.

Congressional Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2010

The very first step in the Congressional reauthorization process is the budget resolution for the next fiscal year, 2010. This must be passed before the Appropriations Committees can do their work on the federal budget for next year. Also, the authorizing committees have to adhere to these overall ceilings on federal spending. The House-passed resolution allows for transportation spending at current authorized levels and for increased spending as long as a financing mechanism is in place to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. The Senate-passed resolution would reduce spending from the current levels and severely limit any increase in spending authorized in a new Transportation bill. The attached letter reflects CVSA’s support of the House position to the Conferees now writing the House-Senate Conference Report.

Safety Technology Bill Re-introduced

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Advanced Safety Technology Tax Act of 2009 (H.R. 2024) has been re-introduced in the House by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Geoff Davis (R-KY). It provides tax credits to help facilitate the accelerated adoption of advanced safety systems for commercial vehicles. Those systems included in the bill are: electronic brake stroke monitoring systems; vehicle stability systems; lane departure warning systems; and, collision warning systems.

It is expected that Sens. Stabenow (D-MI) and Voinovich (R-OH) will soon re-introduce the legislation in the Senate.

An economic and market analysis of the legislation has been completed and will soon be available. The information in this analysis covers issues that are generally considered by the Joint Committee on Taxation when it is requested to “score” the bill to determine the revenue impact on the federal budget, in this case, the Highway Trust Fund.

Truck Parking Legislation

Rep. Paul Tonko, (D-NY) is planning to introduce a bill known as “Jason’s Law” to implement a pilot program to address the shortage of long-term parking for commercial motor vehicles on the National Highway System. The bill is named after truck driver Jason Ribenburg who was fatally shot at an abandoned gas station in St. Matthews, SC, for the approximately $7 he had on him at the time. A copy of the bill is attached.

You will note that it is very similar to the truck parking provisions in SAFETEA-LU but would be funded at $20,000,000 annually for the life of the bill instead of $5,000,000 in SAFETEA-LU. CVSA will be working with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and other industry groups to make sure this increased funding level is included the Reauthorization bill.

Safe Teen Driver Act

CVSA is joining forces with the Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety in support of H.R. 1895, the “The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act of 2009”, also known as the STANDUP Act. The purpose of the bill is to accelerate adoption of model Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws for novice teen drivers in every state. Key elements of the model legislation are: a three-stage licensing process; prohibition on nighttime driving during the learners permit and intermediate states; passenger restriction (no more than one non-familial passenger); prohibition on non-emergency use of cell phones; and age limits of 16 for a learner’s permit and 18 for an unrestricted license. A one-page summary of the bill’s provisions is attached.

CVSA Sends Comments to FMCSA on Safety Grant Proposals and Solicitation for Applications

CVSA has filed comments with the FMCSA on its proposal to revise and streamline the process for the application and awarding of grants. Some of these issues were raised in CVSA’s reauthorization policy and it is encouraging to note that FMCSA is proposing to implement changes in this regard to the extent they can do so administratively.