U.S. Capitol Photo: David Cullen

U.S. Capitol Photo: David Cullen

The effort to inject a reform proposal widely viewed as favorable to trucking into an aviation bill has crashed and burned. At least for now.

House leaders introduced a short-term aviation bill on March 10. The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2016 (H.R. 4721) would extend authorization for Federal Aviation Administration programs through July 15.

If an extension isn’t passed by both chambers of Congress, authority for FAA programs will expire at the end of this month.

Separately, just the day before on March 9, the Senate Commerce Committee introduced long-term legislation that would reauthorize FAA programs through Sept. 30, 2017. The committee is slated to vote March 16 on forwarding its bill to the full Senate.

While the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in February approved legislation that would fund FAA until 2022, that bill is meeting resistance from many House Democrats and aviation stakeholders over a provision that would detach the nation’s air traffic control system from the aviation agency.

Hence, House leaders saw the need to put forth the short-term patch.

The long-term House bill, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act (H.R.444)contains a trucking reform proposal aimed at preventing states from enacting their own meal and rest break rules for CDL drivers. It would also prohibit states from requiring that those drivers be paid certain types of added compensation, such as detention pay. 

However, neither the Senate committee’s proposal for a long-term aviation bill nor the House short-term measure contains the pro-trucking reforms. 

The trucking reforms sought are stated as such in Section 611 of the House AIRR ACT:

  • “A State… may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision…prohibiting employees whose hours of service are subject to [federal] regulation…
  • “A State… may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision…that requires a motor carrier that compensates employees on a piece-rate basis to pay those employees separate or additional compensation, provided that the motor carrier pays the employee a total sum that when divided by the total number of hours worked during the corresponding work period is equal to or greater than the applicable hourly minimum wage of the State…” 

The wording is identical to that of an amendment proposed for inclusion in the last highway bill by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA). That language did not survive the conferencing process that finalized the FAST Act late last year. 

The language landed anew in the AIRR bill because its supporters in the trucking, railroad, intermodal, logistics, manufacturing and retailing industries are committed to keep fighting for it. It’s also considered germane to the bill because a “preemption provision” to address the issue of states attempting to override federal regulation of interstate commerce had been included in the FAA Authorization Act (FAAAA) of 1994.

It appears unlikely the pro-trucking reforms will get worked into the short-term House FAA bill and even more unlikely the language will be written into any short-term aviation patch that comes out of the Senate.

That means the trucking groups that favor the reforms (including the American Trucking Associations, the 50 ATA-affiliated state trucking associations, the National Private Truck Council and the Truckload Carriers Association) as well as the rail, intermodal and shipper groups that support the changes will have to keep lobbying to keep the language in the long-term House bill.

As for landing the reforms in the multi-year bill FAA that eventually will emerge from the Senate, that promises to be no milk run.

Related:  Aviation Bill Harbors Pro-Trucking Reform 

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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