Image: Office of the Architect of the Capitol

Image: Office of the Architect of the Capitol

The subcommittee draft for the next House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill features several riders favored by trucking interests, including a long-sought measure that would preempt states from enacting laws dictating meal and rest break requirements for truckers. A similar rider is attached to the reauthorization bill covering DOT that was advanced last month by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

For several years now, trucking lobbyists have been seeking a legislative provision that would prevent individual states from enacting their own meal and rest break rules for CDL drivers, as well as to prohibit states from requiring that those drivers be paid certain types of added compensation, such as detention pay. That effort failed on Capitol Hill no less than three times last year.

Proponents of this reform have been pushing hard for Congress to more directly address state preemption of federal driver rules ever since a Supreme Court ruling in May 2015 upheld a California statute requiring a paid 10-minute rest break every four hours and a paid 30-minute meal period every five hours for truck drivers.

The House bill would also prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from advancing a safety-fitness determination rulemaking until the DOT Inspector General has issued certain certifications required by law.

The back story on this rider is a bit more complex. Earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration announced it was scrapping its proposed rule on a revised methodology for issuing safety-fitness determinations for motor carriers. The agency had issued its SFD notice of proposed rulemaking back in January of last year.

FMCSA explained in a March 23 notice in the Federal Register that despite having recently announced it would next issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, it had decided “after reviewing the record in this matter” to both withdraw the NPRM and drop plans to develop an SNPR for revising SFD methodology.

The agency pointed out at that time that it must receive a correlation study (mandated by the FAST Act highway bill) from the National Academies of Science before it can determine “whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process.”

That NAS report dropped late last month. It calls for setting CSA scores via a methodology based on a wider pool of data (including driver compensation, vehicle miles traveled by state, and other factors) that would be phased in over two years to replace the current system.

As of the date of the report’s release, FMCSA had four months — 120 days — to submit a corrective action plan that responds to the report. Within four months after that, the DOT’s Office of Inspector General must report to Congress on the extent to which the plan addresses recommendations in the NAS report as well as relevant past recommendations of the Government Accountability Office and the DOT IG itself.

The upshot is, with or without the no-SFD rider, it will be up to eight months from now before trucking can hope to see the reforms to the CSA program recommended by NAS come into play. 

Included as well in this version of THUD is language that would exempt livestock and insect haulers from complying with the electronic logging device mandate that kicks in on December 17. If this bill will become law before the ELD deadline and this rider remains attached it’s a safe bet it will remain the last change to the rule before it takes effect

The draft House bill also calls for increasing the annual budget of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by over $100 million-- and pumping up the DOT discretionary budget by $1.5 billion more than the amount sought by President Trump.

The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee was slated to mark up (read for amendment) the Fiscal Year 2018 THUD bill on the evening of July 11.

Related: Trucking and CSA Reform-- The $64,000 Question 

Related: Report Recommends Improvements to CSA Scoring System 

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