SSRS Extension Language in 9/11 Commission and SAFETEA-LU Corrections Bills
Legislative language re-instating SSRS until such time as the new Unified Carrier Registration plan is up and running has been included in Section 1436 of the recently passed Senate bill (S.4) that implements the last of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. An earlier House passed 9/11 Commission bill does not contain the SSRS extension language. The two bills will go to Conference in the coming weeks. Efforts are underway to keep the SSRS extension in the final Conference bill. However, the ultimate fate of this bill is uncertain. The President has threatened to veto the final bill relating to provisions expanding collective bargaining rights of TSA airport screeners. Some speculate that a compromise on this issue will be worked out since neither the President nor Congress will want to be blamed for failure to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
In addition, language extending SSRS is also in a SAFETEA-LU Corrections bill, H.R. 1195, that passed the House in February. The Senate has yet to draft and take action on their version of the Corrections bill. It is not expected that this particular bill will pass the Congress until July at the earliest.
The challenge thus far has not been in convincing Congress that an SSRS extension is needed, but to get the extension language attached to legislation that is sure to pass the Congress and be signed into law by the President.
Unified Carrier Registration Board Still Tackling New Fee Structure
The reason it is necessary to re-instate and extend SSRS is the fact that the new Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) Plan fee structure and agreement is not yet completed and ready for implementation by the states. Many of the 37 SSRS states are being forced to cut back highway safety programs, particularly motor carrier safety enforcement programs that have been funded from SSRS revenues in past years.
The UCR Board has been working intensely on the development of a new UCR fee structure that covers the entire trucking industry rather than the just the for-hire segment which has been the case under the SSRS system. The Board has submitted a draft fee structure to the DOT (FMCSA) for their approval after which there must be a 90-day period for notice and comment on the plan. Twice it has been rejected with a request for further analysis and additional information. The most recent DOT request asked the Board to take into account the number of trailers operated by the carrier as well as the number of power units.
In the March 15 teleconference call, the Board reached agreement on a new fee structure including both power unit and trailer populations. Shortly, this fee structure will be presented to FMCSA for their review. It is hoped that FMCSA will approve this latest fee structure submission and that it can be published for notice and comment for a period not to exceed 90 days. It is expected that the UCR Board Subcommittees on Systems, Repository, and Procedures can also complete their work within this same 90-day period. However, there are major issues for the Subcommittees to resolve.
With each passing day, it becomes more unlikely that all of the above will come to fruition in time for states to realize any new UCR revenues for fiscal year 2007. Therefore, legislative efforts to bring back SSRS on a temporary basis to ease the developing financial crises in many SSRS states will continue. This effort will not only make sure that the states are made hole with respect to revenue received under the SSRS system which was the basic assumption in the UCR section of SAFETEA-LU but also to continue providing the industry an incentive to support the development of the new UCR as quickly as possible.
Transportation Security Measures also Contained in Senate 9/11 Commission Legislation
The 9/11 Commission Senate bill also contained measures dealing with motor carrier, bus, and hazardous material security. They included hazardous materials highway routing, motor carrier high hazard material tracking, establishment of a program for reviewing hazardous material security plans, a truck security assessment, a national public sector response system and over-the-road bus security grants. The House passed version of the 9/11 Commission and transportation security bills do not contain these provisions, so the House-Senate conference on these bills will determine if they are included in the final Conference bill.
CVSA Joins Safety Incentive Coalition
CVSA is teaming up with the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association and other groups to seek tax credit legislation to encourage the purchase of safety technologies by motor carriers. There are new safety technology systems entering the market that are proving effective in reducing crashes and saving lives. The challenge is how to encourage more widespread use of such safety systems by motor carriers.
Members of the coalition are looking at such technologies as vehicle stability, land departure warning, forward collision warning; side object detection, and brake monitoring systems. For the legislative effort to be successful, the tax credits would be available for broad categories of safety technology systems, rather than specific technologies.
It is hoped that a bill can be drafted by May 1st.