On Friday, June 29, 2012, the House and Senate passed a transportation bill after 9 short term extensions. This version of the bill will likely be referred to as MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). While the headlines in trade publications will report the important top line figures and financing sources that will fund roads and bridges through September 2014, there were a number of policy issues that shippers and carriers were watching closely. Here is a summary of some of the other provisions in the transportation bill that may not make the press headlines: [more]
Increasing Truck Weights: The bill directs the DOT to perform a study comparing the safety data of trucks operating above 80,000 lbs to those operating at or below 80,000 lbs. This study must be completed in 2 years. Essentially this provision means that no actions will be taken to raise truck weights for at least 2 years.
Hours of Service: The bill requires DOT to perform a field study on the effects of the 2011 restart rule changes by March 2013. This appears to be timed to be released just prior to the scheduled implementation date of July 2013 for the new restart rules. This indicates that the debate around hours of service will likely increase in volume next spring as implementation gets close.
EOBR’s (Electronic On Board Recorders): The bill requires the DOT to issue a rule requiring electronic logging devices for all commercial motor vehicles. It clarifies that electronic logging devices can only be used to enforce federal regulations around hours of service. We still anticipate that a requirement which mandates electronic logging devices for all trucks is still at least 3-5 years from implementation because FMCSA has indicated a desire for a longer implementation timeline in order to give smaller carriers enough time to comply. Look for the term “electronic logging device” to be used alongside EOBR.
Broker Bond: The required broker bond amount was raised from $10,000 to $75,000. Additionally, the provision clarifies that a motor carrier must maintain a broker authority and broker bond if they are brokering freight to other carriers. Implementation will be around July 2013.
Truck Parking: The bill allows federal funds to be used more widely for truck parking projects. The original effort to address the parking shortage was called “Jason’s Law” and it was largely included in MAP-21.
“Chameleon carriers”: There are a number of provisions that increase the authority of FMCSA to shutdown suspected “chameleon” or “reincarnated” motor carriers. Similarly, the bill grants FMCSA more authority in fining and punishing carriers who operate without valid authority or who ignore orders by FMCSA to stop operating once they have been placed out-of-service as an “imminent hazard”. It is important for shippers to understand the various enforcement powers granted to FMCSA by Congress so shippers can include any adjustments to their carrier qualification procedures.
Detention Time Study: A provision to study the impacts of detention time on driver fatigue was removed from the bill. We still anticipate that detention time will be an area of growing discussion across the industry in the coming years.
While there are many other important provisions and funding authorizations in the transportation bill, the ones described above have been of keen interest to those within the shipper community. If you have specific questions regarding any of the topics above, please contact me in the CHR government affairs department.