The bill allows a limited number of tolls on existing interstates, a provision opposed by the trucking industry. ATA believes the “tolls are an inefficient funding mechanism that double-taxes motor carriers and causes substantial diversion of traffic to other, less-safe roads.” OOIDA and the National Association of Truck Stop Owners also opposed the tolls provision.
NATSO was also disappointed with how the bill addresses commercial vehicle parking needs. “Congress should only fund additional rest area parking when the private sector is unable to meet truck parking demands and in areas where a true shortage exists,” NATSO President Lisa Mullings said.
Another portion of the bill, the Interstate Oasis Program, allows states to partner with interchange businesses to meet highway users’ needs. The program, proposed by NATSO, addresses the closing of many state-run rest areas by setting up signs directing drivers to businesses that have agreed to give non-customers access to their facilities.
“This is a great program that will guarantee highway users a clean, safe place to stop and provides a virtually no-cost solution for states with budget concerns,” Mullings said.
The bill also revises the screening process for hazmat drivers. The bill requires the Transportation Security Administration to tell carriers if a driver fails to meet security criteria.
It also mandates that TSA eliminate duplicative federal background checks. Canadian and Mexican hazmat carriers would be required to undergo similar background checks.
The bill also sets aside $5 million for truck driver training. ATA and others in the industry have voiced increasing concern in the last few years that the driver shortage is serious and getting worse.
Bill Revamps Diabetes Exemptions
The Highway Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Bush in early August, replaces a provision in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2003 Diabetes Exemption Program barring insulin-treated diabetics from truck driving.
The act allows insulin-using diabetics to be assessed medically on a case-by-case basis.
“Anytime a discrimination barrier is torn down – as this bill will do for commercial driving – it will have a profound effect,” said Lawrence Smith, chair of the American Diabetes Association.
The exemption program was announced in 2003. The FMCSA planned to use it to end the 33-year-old blanket ban on insulin users operating a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. The ban was to be replaced with a case-by-case assessment that includes more than 50 safety provisions.
The program included a rule that required applicants to have commercial vehicle driving experience, while using insulin, for the three years before applying for an exemption. Because of the prior ban, no interstate driver could fulfill the three-year requirement. However, 27 states grant waivers for intrastate driving, which is legal under federal law, and 11 grant limited waivers.
The ADA noted that Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., worked to alter the program.
Further information is available by calling ADA at (800) 342-2383, or visiting this site.