Highway bill highlight reel
The American Trucking Associations’ summary of new highway bill items that are of interest to motor carriers, sent out to various media, follows — I’ve rearranged a few items of driver/owner-operator interest to bring them closer to the top.
Electronic Logging Devices
The bill requires DOT to establish regulations mandating electronic logging devices (EOBRs) for motor carriers currently required to complete paper logs. The regulations must be in place within 1 year; carriers will have two years thereafter to adopt/install the devices.
34 Hour Restart Study
The bill requires DOT to complete a field study – by March 31, 2013 – of the efficacy of the changes to the hours of service 34 hour restart provision, due to go into effect in July 2013. The language does not prohibit the agency from putting the restart changes into effect based on (or pending) the results of the study.
Increases the broker bond to $75,000 and applies it to freight forwarders. It also tightens requirements on bonding companies to respond to carrier claims and includes amending language allowing authorized motor carriers the flexibility to subhaul during the busiest times of the year.
Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
The bill requires DOT to establish – within 2 years – a clearinghouse to capture drivers’ positive drug/alcohol test results and records of refusals to test. Motor carriers will be required to query the clearinghouse when screening new driver applicants and annually thereafter. Third party service agents will be permitted to conduct these inquiries on behalf of motor carriers.
Employer Notification Systems
Within one year, FMCSA must establish standards for state systems that automatically notify motor carriers of drivers’ moving violations and other driver record changes (e.g., suspensions). Motor carriers may use these systems to meet the current annual motor vehicle record review requirements. Within 2 years, FMCSA must develop recommendations and a plan for implementing a national system to perform these functions.
New Entrant Testing and Audits
DOT must require motor carriers entering the industry (new entrants) to complete a proficiency test on the safety regulations and to complete a DOT safety review within 12 months (the current deadline is 18 months).
Investment in truck parking is eligible, but the bill eliminates a pilot program which set money aside for truck parking projects. The bill requires a study to determine the extent and location of truck parking shortages. [Subtitle D, Section 1401, is titled Jason's Law -- in reference to U.S. trucker Jason Rivenburg, slain while parked in the lot of an abandoned business in South Carolina in lieu of a better option. The fact that this was included in the language of the bill is a testament to the long work of truck drivers; for background on the long story check out this link for our past coverage.]
Truck Size and Weight
No increase in size and weight limits, other than an increase in allowable weight for idling reduction devices from 400 pounds to 550 pounds. The bill requires USDOT to conduct a comprehensive size and weight study that is due in two years. However, it is unlikely the study will be completed in this timeframe.
Allows states to issue 120 day oversize-overweight permits to trucks responding to disasters if a national emergency is declared.
The bill effectively maintains the status quo on allowing states to toll existing Interstates, but makes it easier to build new Interstate lanes with toll financing.
The Senate bill language which would have curtailed PPPs was not included.