Senate Reauthorization Update

Senate Reauthorization Update

The Senate EPW Committee has marked up their portion of the next reauthorization. Typically, EPW is the lead committee and others follow suit. EPW has jurisdiction over FHWA and hard infrastructure primarily, while most of CVSA’s issues fall under the purview of the Senate Commerce Committee. Now that EPW has approved their portion of the bill, we are hearing that Banking, Finance and Commerce will do the same, most likely following Thanksgiving.

The bill is a 2-year bill (FYs 12/13) with funding set at the current levels, however, the issue of funding is still not resolved and the $12 billion deficit remains. If the offset cannot be found, there is a ‘ratchet’ mechanism worked into the bill to reduce the annual funding levels to keep the HTF solvent. Over all, the bill seeks to expedite project delivery and streamline the federal process, while giving states more flexibility with federal funds, as long as certain minimum performance measures for performance and safety are met. Most of the bill does not touch on CVSA member issues. However, 4 key sections stand out.

First, the bill seeks to redefine the National Highway System (NHS), shifting some roadways onto the system and some off. The real world impact of this shift is still being analyzed.

Second, the bill adds the definition a “conventional combination vehicle” to Title 23 and defines it as:

  • (A)   truck-tractor semi-trailer combinations with semi-trailers up to 53 feet in length and 102 inches in width; ß up from 48 feet previously
  • (B)   truck-tractor, semi-trailer, or trailer combinations with each semi-trailer and trailer up to 28.5 feet in length and 102 inches in width; and
  • (C)   drive-away saddlemount combinations, not to exceed 97 feet in overall length, with up to 3 truck tractors, with or without a full mount, towed by a truck tractor.

The bill sets requirements regarding their use, requiring that states allow these vehicles on the newly defined NHS. The adjustments to the NHS will likely cause a great deal of confusion for the states and various organizations are working on determining the exact impact of the language. We have been told by Senate staff that the changes are largely technical, because some existing language was repealed and the provision had to be applied to the new language.

Third, the bill incorporates the language from Jason’s law, identifying the nation’s truck parking shortage a national priority and making construction of new facilities and expansion of and improvements to existing facilities available for funding in a number of programs. The section also directs the Secretary to conduct a survey regarding the availability of parking facilities within each State in order to evaluate each states’ ability to meeting parking needs, evaluate traffic levels in each state and to develop a system of metrics to measure the adequacy of parking facilities in the State.

Fourth, the bill permits states to waive federal S&W restrictions during declared emergencies to provide relief supplies.

A summary of the bill, various amendments and bill text for S. 1813 can be found here.

House Reauthorization Update

Meanwhile, action on the House side appears to moving as well. Today, Speaker Boehner held a press conference with Chairman Mica to provide some information on the forthcoming House proposal. Leadership indicated that a fully funded, 5-year bill would be revealed in the coming weeks and the House would vote on the measure, HR 7 – American Energy Infrastructure Jobs Act, by the end of the year. While Speaker Boehner has committed to the House completing a bill this year, there is a great deal of process left to be completed. The T&I Committee must introduce and approve their bill, then other Committees, particularly Ways & Means, have to complete their portions and floor time must be scheduled. Staff was optimistic that a bill could be completed by both chambers, conferenced and signed by the President prior to the current March 31st extension deadline.

We met with T&I majority staff this week to reinforce a number of CVSA’s policy positions. The conversation focused on Grants and grant flexibility, MOE, truck size & weight issues, exemptions, bus safety, and the need to make size and weight enforcement labor and other ‘soft’ costs eligible for federal funding under the federal aid program. Staff listened, but did not provide a great deal of feedback or insight into what will be in the bill, the contents of which are being closely guarded by House staff. She did indicate that, while the bill is not finalized, it is very close to being complete and Committee action can be expected soon.

While there are a number of hurdles to clear before Congress can accomplish that goal, the fact that both parties, on both sides of the Hill are at least talking about it appears to be a good sign.

2012 Appropriations Measure

Earlier this week, House and Senate leaders agreed to a conferenced version of the 2012 ‘minibus’ bill that contains transportation funding provisions for FY 2012. The House is set to vote today and the Senate tomorrow. As no amendments are permitted at this point, the measure is expected to pass as written. Of interest in the spending measure:

  • CVISN – Senator Thune’s (R-SD) hold harmless language survived the conference and was included (for more detail see 11/4 Legislative Update). It reads:

“Sec. 131. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, States receiving funds for core or expanded deployment for core or expanded deployment activities under the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks program pursuant to sections 4101 (c)(4) and 4126 of Public Law 109-59 that did not meet award eligibility requirements set forth in section 4126; received grant amounts in excess of the maximum amounts specified in sections 4126 (c)(2) or 4126 (d)(3); or were awarded grants either prior to or after the expiration of the period of performance specified in a grant agreement, “shall not be required to repay grant amounts received in error under such sections and, in addition, shall be reimbursed for core or expanded deployment expenditures such States made before the date of the enactment of this Act in reliance on a grant awarded in error under such sections.”

  • Funding Levels – Funding levels in the bill are set at:
    • MCSAP – $212 million
    • New Entrants – $29 million
    • CDL – $30 million
    • Border – $32 million
    • PRISM – $5 million
    • CVISN – $25 million
    • Safety Data Improvement – $3 million
  • Maine & Vermont Exemptions – The bill includes a 20-year exemption, through 2031, from Federal size & weight requirements for both Maine and Vermont.

Other Legislation

Congressmen Graves and Congressman Luetkemeyer, both of Missouri, have introduced legislation, HR 3265, providing a statutory Hours of Service exemption for the movement of farm materials, such as fertilizers and equipment, during the harvest season. CVSA met with staff from their offices to discuss the bill and were told that the bill is in response to a recent interpretation by FMCSA that limits movement of supplies specifically to one type of fertilizer. The bill would expand the exemption to all movements of all necessary supplies; something which they say already exists in federal law, but has been interpreted differently by FMCSA. We shared with staff our thoughts on statutory exemptions, and encouraged them to consider adding language providing for a regular safety review of the exemption. We provided this feedback to the House T&I Committee staff as well. FMCSA has expressed concern over the ‘source to retail’ movement portion of the bill, arguing that that segment is not covered under the exemption.