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Although Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-TN) pulled an amendment he crafted to fix language regarded as detrimental to smaller carriers before the House passed its highway bill on Nov. 5, the lawmaker told HDT that he will “continue to work” to correct the wording during the conferencing process with the Senate to ready final legislation for President Obama to sign.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has named Duncan one of the 16 Republican conferees on the multi-year surface transportation bill.

“I went to the House floor with the intention of offering an amendment that would address some language in the base bill that could be harmful to small and independent trucking companies,” Rep. Duncan said in a statement to HDT. 

“However,” he continued, “when [Transportation and Infrastructure Committee] Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio assured me that they would work with me to rectify the situation in conference, I agreed to withdraw my amendment at their request.

“Rest assured,” Duncan added, “I will continue to work to correct this language so that the small and independent truck companies that are the backbone of our economy will continue to thrive."

The issue Duncan had attempted to address with his amendment concerns language within the highway bill’s Section 5224 that lays out an “Interim Hiring Standard” for motor carriers.

According to Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs & communications for the Western States Trucking Association, as written the provision would “establish having a ‘Satisfactory’ as a necessary prerequisite in contracting for trucking services.”

Rajkovacz also said that many in trucking “believe this language will actually harm small-businesses because approximately 90% are ‘unrated’-- since they have never had a federal Compliance Review and have not been issued a Safety Fitness Determination by FMCSA."

While Section 5224 states that a motor carrier must have in effect a satisfactory safety rating from FMCSA, the Duncan amendment sought to insert the words “or be unrated” as well as adjust other language to clarify the intent of the hiring standard.

 “As soon as Senate and House conferees are named,” Rajkovacz told HDT, “you can bet a lot of lobbying efforts will move to those participants. We [the Western States Trucking Association] will be working to attempt and remove the provision altogether. More muddling along to try an invent an acceptable Hiring Standard that only benefits brokers and shippers while giving truckers no protection at all is not something many agree with.”

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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