September 21, 2017

Congress to Tackle Crucial Trucking Policy Reforms in Upcoming Sessions

Congress to Tackle Crucial Trucking Policy Reforms in Upcoming Sessions

Several crucial provisions that could potentially shape the landscape of the trucking industry is expected to be tackled by the Congress in the next few sessions.

These provisions can impact the regulatory guidelines for prominent trucking policies, such as the ELD mandate that is set to be enforced from December 18, 2017. Having just recently returned from their recent annual recess, lawmakers are now well rested and ready to discuss these provisions in the upcoming Congressional sessions.

Overview of the Lawmaking Process

The lawmakers can pass regulatory provisions in two distinct formats — either as a standalone bill or as an amendment that is attached to a larger bill. When provisions, in the form of amendments, “ride” on larger bills, their chances of getting approved increase.

For a bill to turn into law, it needs to be passed by both chambers of the Congress. These versions should be identical to each other and should be signed by President Trump.

Below are some of the trucking provisions and bills that will likely be covered in the upcoming Congressional sessions:

ELD Mandate Delay

A standalone bill that seeks to move the ELD mandate’s compliance date to December 2019 was filed by Texas Representative Brian Babin in July 2017.

This bill attained over 40 co-sponsors since the day it was filed and is currently one of the bills that have not yet been deliberated on in the lower house.

There are currently no signs that show whether the bill would be successfully approved in both the House and the Senate, especially since the upper chamber still has not filed a similar version of the bill as its counterpart.

Recent reports in the trucking industry are saying that Babin could attempt to attach the provisions of his two-page bill to larger bills in the form of an amendment instead. Doing so would give the provisions of Representative Brian Babin’s bill a more direct path towards being approved by the Congress and being enacted by the President.

Because the government’s current fund allocation would expire by September 30, the Congress only has up to the end of the current Congressional session to pass a short-term appropriations bill to keep the country’s government operations up and running.

This session started on September 5 and would last for twelve days.

Amendments that are meant to include legal provisions that would delay the ELD mandate’s compliance date could be added to the current session’s short-term bill. Alternatively, lawmakers could also attach these provisions to a long-term appropriations bill that would still be tackled in later sessions.

However, because of the running deadline that lawmakers have to meet in order to provide federal agencies with the funds needed to continue its operations, the Congress might choose to hasten the current Congressional session instead.

It means that the time that is being consumed by the deliberation processes would be cut short by lawmakers refusing policy riders from adding additional amendments to the appropriations bill.

Current Appropriation Trucking Provisions

The current House appropriation bill for the 2018 fiscal year already contains a few important trucking provisions incorporated into it.

One of the provisions that were integrated into the spending bill is a limited ELD delay for livestock haulers. This delay gives them an additional extra year to comply with the ELD mandate.

Another trucking provision that was incorporated into the appropriation bill involves a proposal to forbid states from requiring motor carriers to compensate drivers for their daily meals and rest breaks.

This proposed prohibition resulted from the collective effort of several trucking associations and motor carriers in restraining the influence that states have in regulating the work schedules of drivers.

If passed, this provision would prevent states from enacting and enforcing state laws that would require carriers — as the employers of truck drivers — to provide these additional benefits.

The provision also protects motor carriers from being required by the state to pay drivers for tasks that are not related to driving — such as vehicle inspections and other standard industry practices. This added language came as a result of several controversial and costly court-ordered payouts that happened in the recent years.

Opponents of the state-enforcement prohibition provision argue that these measures might abandon any opportunity for driver wage reforms to be enacted by legislators at the state level.

Additionally, the House spending bill also includes a provision that restrains the FMCSA from passing a rulemaking on its “Safety Fitness Determination” (SFD) methodology.

This safety measure is aimed at determining whether motor carriers are fit to conduct interstate operations based on a number of safety factors specified by the agency.

The House bill specified that the FMCSA would only be allowed to enact its SFD rulemaking once it imposes the necessary CSA reforms that were recommended by the NASEM earlier in the year.

In relation to this, the FMCSA also withdrew their proposed SFD rulemaking a few months before the introduction of the House appropriation bill. This SFD rulemaking was previously issued by the agency in January.

However, despite all these provisions being up for deliberation, the Senate’s counterpart version of the appropriation bill does not have any similar attachments.

Rather, the Senate’s version contains provisions on speed limiters, transportation leasing rules, natural gas regulations, and other regulations instead.

Fight Against Human Trafficking

Two recent bills that tackle measures that address human trafficking in the trucking industry were introduced in the Senate last July.

These anti-trafficking bills are entitled “No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act” and the “Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act.”

Both these bills passed the Senate on September 14 by unanimous consent.

The “No Human Trafficking on our Roads Act” permanently disqualifies anyone who has previously used CMVs (Commercial Motor Vehicles) in committing a human trafficking felony from acquiring commercial driver licenses.

Alternatively, the “Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act” instructs the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to perform a series of tasks that are geared towards addressing the human trafficking crisis in the country.

These tasks involve the following:

  • Appoint a Human Trafficking Prevention Coordinator among the officials of the USDOT to coordinate trafficking prevention campaigns among federal agencies;
  • Expand the USDOT’s outreach and education appropriations to include campaigns that are geared towards human trafficking prevention initiatives;
  • Expand the scope of the financial assistance program for commercial driver’s license to include special human trafficking awareness activities; and,
  • Establish a USDOT human trafficking advisory committee who are tasked to develop campaigns, training materials, best practices, and recommendations for combating the human trafficking problem in the country.

Where We Are Headed

Despite the numerous trucking provisions that are currently up for deliberation in the months to follow, chances of them being passed by Congress are fairly slim.

For one, the absence of any of the House’s provisions in the Senate’s appropriations bill shows that the upper chamber has other priorities in mind rather than pursuing provisions that are linked to the ELD mandate.

Also, because of the urgency in getting the current short-term appropriations bill approved within the twelve-day Congressional session that started on September 5, lawmakers might forgo any amendments that might delay the bill’s passage.

With only three months left before the mandate’s compliance date, it pays to equip your fleets with ELDs and stay compliant no matter the outcome.

If your fleets still aren’t using electronic logs to comply with the FMCSA’s Hours of Service regulations, allow us to help you transition to complying with the ELD mandate today.

Our KeepTruckin ELDs is the highest-rated logbook app.

Our solutions are included in FMCSA’s list of registered ELDs. Moreover, our compliant ELDs start from just $20 per month with no additional charges whatsoever.

For more details, contact us by calling 855-434-ELOG, or email us at support@keeptruckin.com.

You can also request a free demo of the KeepTruckin ELD solution by clicking the following button.

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