The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) and American Trucking Associations applauded the completion of the surface transportation conference report and urged both the House and the Senate to quickly pass the legislation so it may be signed into law before the June 30 deadline.
The bill, H.R. 4348, extends current highway spending levels through September 30, 2014, and places new requirements on motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment importers.
“As manufacturers, motor vehicle parts suppliers must have an efficient and reliable transportation system to move parts and goods throughout the supply chain and into the stream of commerce. Passage of a comprehensive transportation bill is critical to the industry and to its continued growth,” said Bob McKenna, president and CEO, MEMA.
Said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves, “This legislation, while not all we could have hoped for as an industry and as users of the highway system, makes tremendous strides in the safety arena and puts down a marker for future improvements to our nation’s freight infrastructure. On behalf of ATA, I’d like to thank Chairmen Boxer and Mica, and all the conferees for putting partisanship aside and putting together a compromise bill that will benefit not just the trucking industry, but highway safety and the economy as a whole and urge all members of Congress to quickly pass this critical legislation.”
The original Senate bill, which passed back in March, included significant provisions that were deemed unnecessary by MEMA and others in the industry and would have imposed substantial new costs and compliance burdens on suppliers who import goods. MEMA advocated for changes in the conference report to eliminate these unnecessary and duplicative standards.
The conference report also eliminates provisions requiring new onerous financial reporting requirements on importers and requires that provisions to allow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to seek documentation on imported goods should coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that any new requirements are not duplicative of existing requirements.
Graves said of particular importance was the committee’s inclusion of several initiatives advocated by ATA, including a requirement that commercial trucks use electronic logging devices to record drivers’ compliance with hours of service limits, the creation of a clearinghouse to track drug and alcohol test results, a study of crashworthiness standards for large trucks, the establishment of standards for systems to provide employers with timely notifications of drivers’ moving violations, and mandatory testing of new carriers entering the industry to verify their knowledge of safety requirements.
“Despite misinformation from a vocal minority, the conferees have set our industry on the path to even greater improvements in safety by requiring the Department of Transportation to mandate that truck drivers use electronic devices to record their compliance with the hours of service requirements,” Graves said. “This is a tremendous leap forward for trucking, which will bring our compliance systems into the 21st Century, leveling the playing field for our industry and lead to even fewer crashes on our nation’s highways.
“In addition to the ELD requirement, the bill also requires DOT to conduct a field study of pending changes to the restart provisions in the hours-of-service regulations. ATA has pressed DOT to follow through on the recommendations of their own researchers to confirm their finding in a ’real-world‘ field study before implementing the pending changes. Logically, DOT should confirm the efficacy of the planned changes in the real world, before making the new provisions effective,” Graves said.
He said the bill also lays a foundation for much-needed improvements in freight transportation, albeit without the increases in funding necessary to address growing needs.
“ATA has long supported increasing user fees, specifically the diesel tax, to fund overdue repair and expansion of our highway system,” said ATA Chairman Dan England, chairman of C.R. England Inc., Salt Lake City. “While this bill does not do that, it does make impressive reforms to the planning process which will reduce costs and speed construction projects, including making freight transportation a greater priority, along with providing certain enticements for states to fund freight projects. It is our sincere hope that as these reforms take effect, Congress quickly gets back to drafting legislation that provides the adequate funding we need to maintain and grow our infrastructure network and dedicates funds to the movement of freight.”
Despite all these advances, one area where the bill falls significantly short is in area of truck productivity.
“While there is much to like about this bill, ATA is extremely disappointed that Congress has once again kicked the can down the road with respect to truck productivity,” Graves said. “By giving into fear-based misinformation, this bill delays the deployment of some of our industry’s safest, most fuel-efficient trucks. We fully expect this latest study to confirm what numerous other studies have already told us: modest increases in truck size and weight limits have a net positive effect on highway safety and maintenance.”
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