[CORRECTED] Legislators homed in on top trucking issues such as truck sizes and weights, electronic logs and driver hours of service at a House hearing yesterday.
The Subcommittee on Highways and Transit met to review the Department of Transportation’s implementation of last year’s highway law, one provision of which calls for a study of the size and weight issue.
Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, complained to Federal Highway Administration chief Victor Mendez that the agency expanded the scope of the study, which will consequently delay its completion.
Michaud said the study is due in August 2014. Mendez said it will be done November 2014. Agency spokesperson Nancy Singer said in an email message that November 2014 is the due date in the law.
The agency added a component to the study that was not called for in the law, Michaud said.
Mendez replied that the agency is moving as quickly as it can, and will prepare a comprehensive, data-based study.
Michaud was a sponsor of a size and weight amendment that was struck from the current highway law during debate last year. An early version of the House’s bill would have let states raise the limits on Interstate highways from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds on six-axle vehicles, but that provision was struck and replaced by the study.
The study will look at the safety and economic implications of alternative configurations, including the 6-axle, 97,000-pound vehicle, according to a recent FHWA presentation.
It will compare trucks operating at current size and weight limits to bigger and heavier trucks on the basis of crash rates and other safety risk factors, as well as the costs of effective enforcement, and the impact of the equipment on pavements and bridges. It also will look into the impact on truck-rail competition.
Mendez said the agency is now in the process of hiring a consultant to help with the study.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Chief Anne Ferro said the agency is on track to produce its supplemental proposed rule on electronic onboard recorders by September.
Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wisc., the chairman of the subcommittee, said the agency should consider building in a “fudge factor” for drivers to get home or to the terminal if they are only a short distance away as their hours are expiring.
Ferro replied that a number of trucking companies have successfully made the transition from paper to electronic logs. And the agency has listened to industry concerns and is incorporating comments into the rule, particularly with respect to equipment standards and prevention of driver intimidation, she said.
Answering a similar question from Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Ferro said the agency is studying the impact of detention time at shippers and receivers on safety. The study is due in 2015, she said.
Hours of Service
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., asked Ferro to reconsider the agency’s recent rejection of an industry and enforcement community request to push back the July 1 start data of the new hours-of-service rule.
American Trucking Associations and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance had asked the agency for a three-month extension to manage any changes that might emerge from the ongoing suit against the rule, and to complete personnel training.
The agency denied the request, saying it will not sacrifice what several months of public safety benefits from the rule.
ATA and CVSA are challenging the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Oral arguments are scheduled for today.
Mullin said the agency’s decision is an example of unnecessary government interference in private enterprise.
“I’m just asking, please take this under reconsideration, because it’s going to hurt us,” he said. “We all have safety in mind but we should be working together not against each other.”
Ferro replied that ATA and CVSA are free to ask the court for the extension.
[Corrected 3/16/2013 at 12:45 EDT. Originally we reported that Administrator Mendez said the study would be late. Under MAP-21, it is statutorily due November 2014 and that's when it will be done, Mendez said. Truckinginfo apologizes for the error.]