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Reauthorization

There have been a number of legislative developments on Capitol Hill in the last few weeks.

This year, which includes a transfer of about $8 billion from the General Fund, in order to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through the life of the extension.

Meanwhile, Members in the Senate continue to work towards completion of a six-year bill. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held an executive session to markup S.1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015, which includes the Committee’s CMV-related provisions for reauthorization. The Commerce bill contains a number of CVSA’s reauthorization priorities, including:

  • Portions of CVSA’s regulatory reform priorities;
  • CVSA-supported MCSAP grant reorganization;
  • CVSA Data Quality Study;
  • CVSA New Entrant Study;
  • A Beyond Compliance program;
  • Implementation of hardcoding & smart logic, in consultation with the States; and,
  • Eligibility for CVSA’s COHMED under the HM Training Grants program.

The bill also contains language CVSA does not support, including several exemptions and other problematic sections. A section-by-section summary of the relevant provisions in the bill can be found here. CVSA’s Reauthorization Policy Recommendations can be found on CVSA’s website.

The Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) passed their portion of the reauthorization, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act) on June 24. While the EPW Committee’s jurisdiction deals mostly with infrastructure, the Committee does have some jurisdiction related to CMV size and weight limits. The bill includes three exemptions that impact the CMV community:

  • An exemption for natural gas vehicles, allowing vehicles to exceed any vehicle weight limit (up to 82,000 lbs.) to account for the weight of the natural gas system.
  • Language setting minimum weight limits for emergency vehicles.
  • Language grandfathering in vehicles currently operating on a portion of Arkansas highway that is being designated as part of the Interstate System (this provision also appears in the Senate Transportation Appropriations bill – see below).

The bill also includes a new intelligent transportation systems grant program, as well as a requirement that DOT promote research to identify a long term, user-based revenue mechanism to fund the Highway Trust Fund.

Currently, the Senate is planning to send the bill to the floor sometime in the next two weeks. However, legislation from the Finance Committee would be necessary in order to move the full package forward. Determining how to fund the bill remains the biggest challenge to passing a long term bill. Even if a comprehensive package passes the Senate, an extension at the end of July is still likely going to be necessary.

FY2016 Appropriations

The House passed its FY2016 THUD Appropriations bill on June 9, 2015. The bill funds MCSAP grants at the current levels:

  • Total FY 2015 MCSAP Funding – $313,000,000
    • Basic MCSAP – $218,000,000
      • New Entrant Safety Audits – $32,000,000
      • High Priority Grants – $15,000,000
    • Border Enforcement Grants – $32,000,000
    • Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks Deployment (CVISN) – $25,000,000
    • Performance and Registration Information System Management program (PRISM) – $5,000,000
    • Safety Data Improvement Grants – $3,000,000
    • Commercial Driver’s License Improvements Program (CDL) – $30,000,000

It also includes several policy provisions, including language that:

  • Extends the current HOS restart suspension until DOT completes a report on the safety impacts of the old rules versus the current rules (this provision also appears in the Senate Appropriations bill – see below).
  • Adds a new exemption for longer combination vehicles (LCV), allowing Idaho to expand its LCV program state-wide.
  • Extends the length limit for doubles from 28 feet to 33 feet (this provision also appears in the Senate Appropriations bill – see below).
  • Adds Kansas to the custom harvester exemption currently in place for Nebraska (this provision also appears in the Senate Appropriations bill – see below).
  • Prohibits FMCSA from denying a HM Special Permit based on a carrier’s OOS rate without first giving the carrier an opportunity to submit a corrective action plan (this provision also appears in the Senate Appropriations bill – see below).
  • Prohibits FMCSA from initiating a rulemaking on insurance minimums.
  • Prohibits FMCSA from implementing or testing its Wireless Roadside Inspection (WRI) program until the agency certifies that the WRI program will not interfere with private programs already in place.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed their own FY2016 Appropriations proposal on June 25, 2015. Like the House bill, it funds MCSAP at the current levels:

  • Total FY 2015 MCSAP Funding – $313,000,000
    • Basic MCSAP – $218,000,000
      • New Entrant Safety Audits – $32,000,000
      • High Priority Grants – $15,000,000
    • Border Enforcement Grants – $32,000,000
    • Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks Deployment (CVISN) – $25,000,000
    • Performance and Registration Information System Management program (PRISM) – $5,000,000
    • Safety Data Improvement Grants – $3,000,000
    • Commercial Driver’s License Improvements Program (CDL) – $30,000,000

In addition, the bill contains a number of policy provisions as well, including language that:

  • Grandfathers in certain specialized hauling vehicles currently operating on portions of certain roads within Texas that are being designated as part of the Interstate System.
  • Grandfathers in vehicles currently operating on a portion of Arkansas highway that is being designated as part of the Interstate System (this provision also appears in the EPW bill – see above).
  • Adds Kansas to the custom harvester exemption currently in place for Nebraska (this provision also appears in the House Appropriations bill – see above).
  • Prohibits DOT from prohibiting States from issuing a commercial learner’s permit to drivers under the age of 18 if that State allowed for drivers under 18 to hold a learner’s permit prior to May 9, 2011.
  • Prohibits FMCSA from denying a HM Special Permit based on a carrier’s OOS rate without first giving the carrier an opportunity to submit a corrective action plan (this provision also appears in the House Appropriations bill – see above).
  • Extends the current HOS restart suspension until DOT completes a report on the safety impacts of the old rules versus the current rules plan (this provision also appears in the House Appropriations bill – see above).
  • Requires FMCSA to conduct a study before initiating a rulemaking on insurance minimums.
  • Exempts from regulation the transportation of passengers by motor vehicles operated by youth or family camps that provide overnight accommodations and recreational or educational activities at fixed locations.
  • Extends the length limit for doubles from 28 feet to 33 feet and requires DOT to study the safety impacts of 28 feet versus 33 feet.

It is unclear whether or not the Senate will consider the Appropriations measure on the floor, or if the House and Senate will instead negotiate compromised language between now and the end of the fiscal year.