GAO studying FMCSA predictions vs. reality on hours rule, ATA says in regulatory, legislative update

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Updated Apr 28, 2015
ATA says an upcoming GAO study will reveal whether the benefits FMCSA used to justify its 2013 hours of service rule ended up being true within the rule’s first year and a half.ATA says an upcoming GAO study will reveal whether the benefits FMCSA used to justify its 2013 hours of service rule ended up being true within the rule’s first year and a half.

In addition to the five-month study FMCSA itself is conducting on 2013’s hours-of-service restart rules, the Government Accountability Office is working on a separate study to identify whether FMCSA’s estimated safety benefits of the 2013 rule — fewer crashes, injuries and deaths — came to fruition in the year and a half the rule was in full effect.

Dave Osiecki, the American Trucking Associations’ head of regulatory affairs, said the results of the GAO’s study are expected in the coming months. Osiecki and Chris Spears, ATA’s head of legislative affairs, offered a regulatory and legislative update April 24 to trucking and national press, outlining where upcoming trucking regulations stand and making a push for a long-term highway bill.

Osiecki says ATA will continue to push for a permanent suspension of 2013-implemented hours-of-service rule changes, especially those dictating use of a 34-hour HOS restart.

“We believe that [the portion of the rules now suspended] are not as safe as they could be, and we don’t believe they are as safe as the approach in place from 2003-2013,” Osiecki said.

Osiecki also said publication of a Final Rule to mandate the use of electronic logging devices by truck drivers appears “by all indications” to be on track for its Sept. 30 projection.

An e-log mandate, until published, is ATA’s top lobbying priority, Osiecki said, followed by publication of a Final Rule to implement the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and allowing carriers to use hair tests to satisfy driver drug testing rules. All drivers must be drug tested with a urine analysis, but ATA would like to see hair testing be a recognized option.

ATA will also continue to push for removal of the public rankings in the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, Osiecki says.

Aside from regulatory activities, ATA’s lobbying efforts legislatively are centered on one thing currently: Passing a long-term highway bill.

“Our industry pays nearly half the tab,” Spears said of the country’s Highway Trust Fund revenue stream, which has been funded by at-pump fuel taxes since Eisenhower’s presidency. “We have a lot of skin in this game. Our ability to get from Point A to Point B is dependent on infrastructure. We take this very seriously.”

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Spears said ATA doesn’t view taxes on fuel as a tax but as a “user fee,” and ATA’s push for highway funding centers on upping the current levels — set in in 1993 — and tying them to inflation, so to avoid running into similar issues again when inflation caps the fuel tax’s ability to fund U.S. roadways.

“Thirty-two short term extensions over the last six years. That can has got a lot of dents, it’s been kicked so many times,” Spears said, referring to Congress’ inability of late to pass a long-term funding bill and instead opting to inject money from the general fund into the HTF as a stopgap measure. “I like to tell our members, you can think back to 1993, a number of them, their trucks were equipped with cassette players. That’s how long it’s been since Congress has dealt with this issue.”

The current stopgap measure, passed last summer, expires May 31. Congress has just five weeks to pass a highway funding measure or road maintenance and construction projects around the country will screech to a halt. Several long-term bills have been floated in Congress, but none have seen much action.

ATA remains opposed to so-called “devolution” — state governments becoming responsible for highway funding — and tolling measures, Spears said, especially on already existing roadways.

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