Congress changes in the Transportation Industry for 2016

Highway Bill – FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transport Act)

Signed into law by President Obama last month, this bipartisan legislation will finally give relief to the industry that has not seen a multiple year (6 years) funded Highway Bill since 2005. Although the last 3 years of the bill are not yet funded, FAST Act does give hope to States, giving them the ability to do some long term infrastructure planning.

Here are a few other important pieces of the Bill that will go into effect:

  • Removal of CSA Scores: The FMCSA was ordered to take down the published CSA (Compliance, Safety, and Accountability) scores that were available for public viewing on their website.   Pressured by industry leaders including the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) President Bob Voltmann as “unreliable” and “plagued with serious data flaws”, Congress urged the FMCSA to clean up their data before the scores can be used to determine a carrier’s Satisfactory Rating.
  • Military: The bill establishing a pilot program meant to bring in young veterans and military reserves into the industry at an earlier age. Other changes would let military driving experience count toward a skills tests and it would allow military vets to receive their medical certification from Veterans Affairs doctors rather than having to use those in the FMCSA’s National Registry.
  • Driver Drug Testing Reform: The bill allows carriers to test drivers via hair test (currently using a urine test) once the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) establishes guidelines for hair testing. The bill requires DHHS to produce the guidelines within a year of the bill’s enactment.

Final Rule on Driver Coercion

The FMCSA issued its final rule on driver coercion November 30th with an effective date of January 29, 2016.   Basically under the rule it is prohibited for a shipper, receiver, motor carrier, or a broker to force (coerce) a driver to violate various regulations of the FMCSA. The rule further states that a driver MUST state to the party requesting such services that the request will force him to violate a specific FMCSA rule. A driver must bring a complaint to the FMCSA within 90 days of the alleged coercion.

Hours of Service (HOS) Rule

The Highway Bill also made a provision for FMCSA to provide Congress with an assessment on how the current 34-hour restart rule provides improvement “in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health, and work schedules”. The rule, suspended in December of 2014, will continue to be suspended until at least November.

Electronic Logging Devise (ELD) Rule

FMCSA issued their final ELD Rule in early December that will require carriers to use electronic logging devises to record a drivers’ hour of service. The 516 page rule details new technical specs for ELD’s and clarifies what supporting documents will be required. Motors carrier will have almost two years before the new rule becomes law as the deadline for compliance will not be until December 2017.

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JBS President, Alec Gizzi, and His Capital Hill Visit: Day 2

DC visit (Day 2):

Each June, TIA members fly into the nation’s Capital to lobby for/against legislation and regulations that are an impact to the trucking 3PL industry. Each year seems to add a few more of these issues that need t be addressed. However, because of time constraints (only 20-30 min meetings) and the complexity of the issues, we could only concentrate on two issues this week.

They were:
(1) Making sure the next Highway Bill is a multi-year fully funded bill.
(2) Informing committee members that certain Agriculture Groups are trying to carve out language in the current highway bill that undermines the FFIT amendment that makes sure all motor carriers using outside carriers use a broker bond to move freight. 

Although both of these requests were simple and generally well received, no one wants to pay for it. The 20-year-old 18.5 cents-per-gallon tax is a decreasing source of funding as more fuel-efficient autos and hybrid/electric cars become less fuel dependent. This leads to an underfunded Highway Trust Fund and the need for money from the General Fund to make up the difference. As we soon found out, when you start talking about raising revenue in Washington, everyone stops listening. No Congressman or women wants to put their name on a bill that would be labeled as a “Tax Hike”.

Washington is one of those places were you arrive very optimistic and leave somewhat pessimistic. Each office had a staff person in the meeting that seemed to be just as (sometimes better) informed as their Congressman/woman. All of the politicians were well-educated speakers and generally concerned about the two discussion points. 

I would say the two best meetings we had were with two freshman congressman from Illinois, Brad Schneider (D) and Rodney Davis (R). They are part of the class of 50 freshman just elected in November. They say that they all came in with the “reach across the aisle” attitude of non-partisan politics. Let’s hope it catches on to all 435 members of the House and 100 Senators.

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Alec Gizzi meets Rep Brad Schneider (D – IL)