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Senate Advances Pro-Trucking Measures

June 26, 2015

By David Cullen

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Before heading out the door on June 26 for an 11-day Congressional recess, the Republican majority in the Senate flexed its political muscle to move forward an array of legislative efforts widely favored if not outright lobbied for by trucking stakeholders.

For starters, the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted to follow suit with the House and put into their $55.65-billion version of the T-HUD funding bill a measure that would allow the nationwide operation of twin 33-foot long trailers on highways.

That despite last week’s fervent campaigning against allowing the longer doubles by both a bipartisan pair of Senators and the top executives of 13 truckload and 2 LTL motor carriers.

In reporting the bill out of the transportation subcommittee, language was also included that “directs the FMCSA to publish its final rule on ELDs [electronic logging devices] no later than 60 days after enactment of this act.”

That would be the day the T-HUD bill is signed by President Obama, who has already threatened to veto the entire funding package-- for various reasons-- if it makes it out of the Senate and to his desk in essentially the same form that it took in the House.

But the Senators didn’t stop there. They also put in a demand that FMCSA complete its proposed rule on speed-limiting devices within 60 days of their act being signed into law.

Image via: www.feinstein.senate.gov
Image via: www.feinstein.senate.gov

The Senate measure also addresses the controversy over the use of CSA scores by directing FMCSA “to prominently display on any Web site, smartphone app, or other electronic medium that provides carriers' SMS scores a disclaimer highlighting GAO's concerns and recommendations about the SMS methodology, and warning users that SMS scores are not necessarily reliable indicators of relative safety performance.”

And, like the House version, the Senate T-HUD bill includes a rider that calls for keeping the 34-hour restart rule within the Hours of Service reg suspended until a Federal study is completed.

As for the money, according to the committee, the bill includes $17.78 billion in FY2016 discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation, $17 million below the FY2015 enacted level and $3.9 billion below the Obama Administration’s request.

The funding includes $40.26 billion, equal to the FY2015 enacted level, from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent “contingent on the enactment of new transportation authorization legislation;” $572 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; and $500 million, equal to the FY2015 enacted level, for TIGER infrastructure-investment grants.

Separately, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced S.1669, titled “A bill to reform the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”  

The measue would require that the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conduct a “comprehensive review of its rules, regulations, regulatory guidance, and enforcement policies” and report on the findings every five years.

The bill would also direct the agency to consult with a “wider selection and scope of motor carriers” when conducting its cost-benefits analysis of a rule and to seek out greater stakeholder input during the rulemaking process.

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