Appropriations committee passes spending bill, votes down amendment
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations approved the fiscal year 2020 THUD Appropriations Act by a vote of 29-21 on June 4.
During the markup, Reps. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, attempted to pass an amendment that would strike three trucking provisions from the bill.
Womack said the provisions aimed at stopping the FMCSA from pre-empting California’s meal and rest break rules, preventing the elimination of the 30-minute rest break from federal regulations, and allowing FMCSA to publish information regarding analysis of violations developed under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program would be harmful to the economy.
“It would place an unacceptable burden on the trucking industry,” Womack said. “These riders will do real harm to our economy.”
Rep. David Price, D-N.C., opposed the removal of these three provisions.
“This amendment would strike three provisions in our bill that are aimed at ensuring the safety of truck drivers, bus drivers, and the general public.”
Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., said the three provisions would help truck drivers, who are subject to “abusive working conditions.”
“Truck drivers in this country get paid by the mile. They are put in the position by their employers and dispatchers to try to make their money … and what ends up happening is that they get put under intense pressure to drive too long.”
The amendment failed by a vote of 29-22, keeping the three provisions in the bill.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supported the provision that would ban the use of funds to review and issue a decision on any petition to pre-empt state meal and rest break laws that may differ from federal regulations. In December, FMCSA granted a petition from the American Trucking Associations to pre-empt California’s meal and rest break rules.
“We believe FMCSA erred in granting a 2018 ATA petition to pre-empt California rules, especially considering the agency denied a similar petition 10 years prior,” OOIDA wrote in a letter to lawmakers on June 3. “Congress has also repeatedly rejected ATA’s efforts to legislatively impose a similar federal pre-emption. Section 133 would block FMCSA from pre-empting meal and rest break rules, thus taking a necessary step to ensure that the drivers are compensated for their time.”
However, OOIDA supported removing the provisions involving the mandatory 30-minute rest break and CSA data.
The bill states that no funds can be used to enforce a rule that eliminates the 30-minute rest break in federal regulations. The Association has hoped the FMCSA’s upcoming hours-of-service proposal would eliminate the mandatory 30-minute rest break.
“Truckers have long identified this rule as an overly burdensome requirement that does nothing to improve highway safety,” OOIDA wrote. “In fact, OOIDA recently petitioned FMCSA to remove the provision entirely when modernizing hours-of-service standards.”
During the hearing, Womack echoed OOIDA’s sentiments that the CSA data is “flawed.”
“We have serious concerns,” OOIDA wrote. “Despite recent positive developments, the CSA program remains critically flawed and categorically unfair to truckers. Publicly posting an analysis of violations developed under CSA while the system is still being improved is extremely problematic.”
FMCSA still has to adhere to CSA reforms established in 2015’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Those provisions require the following before moving forward with publication of CSA information:
- Submission of a National Academy of Sciences correlation study.
- Identified deficiencies have been addressed.
- A corrective plan has been implemented.
- FMCSA has addressed all issues raised in the report titled ‘‘Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers.”
- DOT secretary has initiated modification of the CSA program.
Assuming all of those requirements have been satisfied, FMCSA could resume publication of CSA data.
OOIDA, however, is concerned that until all issues with CSA scores are fixed none of its information should be available for public consumption. OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Collin Long said that the FAST Act reforms are a step in the right direction and data should not be published until those terms are met.
Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs, said he anticipates further amendments and debates on the bill’s riders.
Other trucking-related provisions in the bill involve an ELD exemption for livestock haulers and underride guard inspections.
ELD exemption for ag/insect haulers
Another provision in the appropriations bill would extend ELD exemptions for motor carriers hauling livestock or insects. Similar to language used in Section 135, the provision bars using funds to enforce ELD requirements on qualifying carriers.
More specifically, qualified truckers will be exempt from ELD regulations through Sept. 30, 2020, which is when fiscal year 2020 ends.
Underride guard inspection
An update to annual inspection regulations, one provision will require that rear underride guards be included in the inspections.
This provision changes nothing about requirements for rear underride guards. Rather, it only ensures compliance by adding them to the inspection list.
Nothing within the proposed bill is guaranteed to make it into the final draft. LL
Land Line’s Tyson Fisher contributed to this report.