By Dan Boaz
The Democratic leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on June 4 introduced legislation (H.R. 7095) to reauthorize transportation programs following the expiration of the FAST Act on September 30. Title IV of the bill addresses motor carrier safety and includes several significant provisions related to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulation and enforcement. The committee plans to mark up the bill on June 17.
Sec. 4202 of the bill would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) within a year to revise the methodology used for identifying and prioritizing motor carriers for safety interventions under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program based on the recommendations in the National Academies of Science (NAS) study. The legislation would explicitly repeal Sec. 5223 of the FAST Act, which bars publication of safety alerts or percentile rankings until the DOT Inspector General that FMCSA’s corrective action plan addressed the issues raised by NAS and the Government Accountability Office. H.R. 7095 also would require DOT to make safety data publicly available again as it was prior to the FAST Act, although it does not provide a specific deadline. Finally, Sec. 4202 would require that within a year after changing CSA methodology, DOT would have to revise the process for issuing safety fitness determinations (SFDs) for motor carriers.
Sec. 4306 would require FMCSA to conduct a comprehensive review of the impacts of current hours-of-service (HOS) rules, including exemptions and waivers, and would block the final rule published June 1 from taking effect until 60 days after a report to Congress. DOT also would be required to document existing exemptions from HOS rules and conduct a safety analysis and a driver impact analysis as part of the comprehensive review. The bill also directs FMCSA to revise its guidance regarding personal conveyance to establish specific mileage or time limits on the exception.
Sec. 4304 would require DOT to collect data on delays experienced by drivers in loading and unloading and mandates a rulemaking to set limits on the amount of time that a driver may be reasonably detained unless compensated for the time.
Sec 4305 would establish a Truck Leasing Task Force to examine common truck leasing agreements and the terms of such agreements available to truck drivers, including port drayage drivers specifically.
The bill also includes a couple of provisions related to safety standards for commercial vehicles. Sec. 4404 would require automatic emergency braking systems on new commercial vehicles, while Sec. 4405 would require stronger rear underride guard standards on new trailers.
Several provisions relate to passenger carriers. Sec. 4204 would require DOT to review the safety of entities that offer and sell tickets for scheduled motorcoach transportation, regardless of ownership or control of the vehicles or drivers used to provide the transportation. Section 4301 would require a commercial driver’s license for drivers of passenger vehicles designed or used to transport more than eight passengers for compensation. H.R. 7095 addresses a handful of other relatively minor issues related to motor carrier safety.
As set forth above, the House of Representatives will mark up House Bill 7095 on June 17. Section 4202 should be opposed. Its provision would sunset important prerequisites for republication of SMS methodology. It would ignore adverse findings by the National Academies of Science, questioning the data accuracy and sufficiency of SMS and not hold the Agency accountable for failing to present a corrective action plan. Although the Agency’s own Inspector General as required by the FAST Act noted SMS systemic flaws, this Bill would overrule the IG’s required findings, restore SMS methodology to public view, and possibly exacerbate misuse of SMS data in accident litigation. Although this provision is unlikely to pass the Republican controlled Senate in election year, opposition to the proposed language needs to be made clear to elected officials now to avoid industry silence being mistaken for acquiescence.
Attached is a letter sent to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on behalf of the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform Coalition and supporting Coalition members. Individual trade association and constituents of committee members are urged to register their opposition to this Bill and Section 4202 in particular.
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