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Senate Highway Reauthorization Bill Approved by Committee

On May 15, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee passed its highway reauthorization bill. Dubbed the “MAP-21 Reauthorization Act,” the bill (S. 2322) authorizes $265 billion in funding over six years for Federal Highway Administration programs, effectively maintaining funding levels authorized by the previous highway bill, with slight increases to account for inflation.
In order to fully fund the program Congress will have to identify approximately $100 billion in revenue above what is projected to be raised by highway user fees. The bill keeps the basic structure of its predecessor, MAP-21, while adding two new major programs.
The National Freight Program provides $6 billion over five years to states for projects on the National Highway Freight Network, a network of highways identified by USDOT and the states as critical to the movement of freight. Up to 10 pecent of the funding can be used by states for non-highway freight projects. The bill did not increase state flexibility to toll existing Interstates, as proposed by the Obama Administration. Nor did it make any changes to truck size and weight limits.
A schedule for consideration on the Senate Floor has not yet been announced. Note that motor carrier, transit and rail programs fall under the jurisdiction of different Senate committees and were not included in this legislation.
Neither the other committees with jurisdiction over the surface transportation bill in the Senate, nor the House committees of jurisdiction, have released their portions of the legislation or announced when they will release their bills. The current bill, MAP-21, expires on October 1.
 
Source: American Trucking Associations

ELD Makers Back Rule, But Seek Clarifications

Truck technology vendors said they see no major flaws in the federal government’s new proposal to require electronic logging devices in commercial trucks, but they are seeking further clarification on some facets of the expected rule.

 

The FMCSA published its long-awaited proposal on ELDs on March 13. The plan, mandating that all interstate truck drivers implement the use of ELDs two years after the rule becomes final, is intended to enforce hours-of-service rules to mitigate fatigue, eliminate driver harassment and diminish paperwork burdens.

 

The technology companies want clarity on such matters as security, engine connectivity and data transfer, for example, but they also said the proposed rule would give them enough flexibility to develop a range of new products.

  

PeopleNet has already begun planning for the necessary software changes, but as it does so it would like further clarification on issues such as security and display requirements and the data-transfer process. Rustin Keller, executive vice president and chief operating officer at J.J. Keller & Associates, said he’s pleased that the FMCSA’s proposal offers a broad definition of an ELD platform rather than an abundance of detailed technical criteria for the electronic hardware.

 

That provision gives fleets that already have logging devices on their trucks two additional years from the compliance date to install new devices if theirs do not meet the technological specifications contained in the proposed rule. The FMCSA also took a “more open approach” by making ELD providers the responsible party for certifying their devices.

 

Source: Transport Topics

Gas Tax Still a Hot Topic at the Capitol

The gas tax continues to be a topic of conversation at the Capitol. The Iowa Good Roads Association kicked a billboard campaign two weeks ago bringing attention to the fact that 1 in 5 bridges in Iowa is structurally deficient. The campaign is also pointing out that the average age of these bridges is almost 70 years old. Not only has this campaign generated media coverage, but the buzz around the statehouse is that the effort is certainly getting the attention of some legislators as well and even some of the lawmakers that have been opposed to a gas tax increase are beginning to think it is time we do something. The Des Moines Register this week even wrote an editorial endorsing a gas tax increase. The Governor continues to say he will not a veto legislation if it gets to his desk so work continues on addressing Iowa’s road funding issues. Right now efforts need to be focused on the Iowa Senate. The following senators are crucial to having the issue brought up for debate:

Senator Randy Feenstra

Hull, Iowa

randy.feenstra@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Bill Anderson

Pierson, Iowa

bill.anderson@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Dennis Guth

Klemme, Iowa

dennis.guth@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Jack Whitver

Ankeny, Iowa

jack.whitver@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Jerry Behn

Boone, Iowa

jerry.behn@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Bill Dix

Shell Rock, Iowa

bill.dix@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Rick Bertrand

Sioux City, Iowa

rick.bertrand@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Jake Chapman

Adel, Iowa

jake.chapman@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Joni Ernst

Red Oak, Iowa

joni.ernst@legis.iowa.gov

Senator Ken Rozenboom

Oskaloosa, Iowa

ken.rozenboom@legis.iowa.gov 

You can also call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371.

Your message should simply be it’s time for the legislature to act on implementing a phased in 10 cent per gallon fuel tax increase. It’s been over 25 years since the last time the fuel tax was adjusted. This user fee is the fairest way to pay for the use of our roads. It’s the only way we can capture revenue from vehicles outside of Iowa who use our roads. Don’t let them tell you they support using general fund money or “Iowa’s surplus money.” General fund or “surplus funds” would not be constitutionally protected, so the legislature could change their mind at any time. Also, by the state’s own calculations the “surplus” will be almost completely spent by 2018 as that money is targeted to pay down the property tax cuts passed last year.

Neville, Arthur Educate Legislators on Trucking in Iowa

IMTA President Brenda Neville and Chairman of the Board Ralph Arthur took advantage of a rare opportunity for an organization like the IMTA to present in front of a legislative committee this week. 

It is not uncommon for IMTA officers or a lobbyist to provide testimony in front of legislators or in face-to-face meetings with legislative leaders, but it is almost unheard of for a trade or professional organization to be invited to speak in front of an entire committee. Neville and Arthur took full advantage of the opportunity and shared with the House Transportation Committee the role trucking plays in Iowa’s economy.

Neville detailed the tremendous role trucking plays in the state by highlighting that 65% of all Iowa communities are served exclusively by trucks to reminding lawmakers of the number of people who are employed in the industry to the way that trucking pays its fair share when it comes to taxes.    Arthur reminded the committee of over 20 lawmakers that anything they find in a Target store comes by truck and in most cases was delivered by a Ruan truck. Neville also shared the pie chart below (click to view a PDF) and made the connection that with trucking being of such importance to the state, so were roads and she urged committee members to show leadership and make a decision of some sort to invest in infrastructure in this state.

In addition to the remarks made by these two IMTA leaders, the IMTA gave each legislator a copy of booklet produced by the IMTA and the Iowa Motor Carriers Foundation. The book entitled “Trucking … It’s Everybody’s Business” was hot off the press and is filled with information showcasing the trucking industry’s value to every Iowan. The IMTA will be using this book in many different efforts in the future and will be distributing one to every legislator in the next week.

The presentation must have been well received, because the dynamic duo has now been invited to make the same presentation for the Senate Transportation Committee in coming weeks.

Feb 3

Increase in User Fee Passes House Subcommittee

Last Wednesday, more than 200 people primarily representing the various highway corridor groups descended on the state capitol calling for an increase in Iowa’s fuel tax - or user fee as is a more appropriate description of what is being proposed. And they were successful in at least moving the ball a little. The House Transportation Subcommittee unanimously passed out a three year phased in 10 cent increase in fuel taxes.
 
We’re a long way from suggesting the legislature is actually going to debate the issue, but it’s a beginning and certainly got the attention of many different groups.
 
Ralph Arthur, IMTA’s Chairman of the Board was invited to speak at the Transportation Day press conference held in the Capitol Rotunda and he outlined why a safe and efficient road system is crucial to Iowa’s economy and the movement of products throughout the state. IMTA Chairman of the Board called for the state to increase the user fee and pointed out it’s not just trucking companies headquartered in Iowa that should be paying to use Iowa’s roads. “An increase in the user fee is the only way we can get out-of-state driver’s to pay for the use of our roads,” said Arthur.
 
IMTA Lobbyist David Scott was also invited to speak at the press conference. Scott pointed out there are 5400 structurally deficient bridges in Iowa. “There are counties in Iowa were nearly 50% of the bridges are rated as structurally deficient,” said Scott. Only 22 counties in Iowa have not had to resort to actually closing bridges because of their condition and several hundreds of bridges have been posted for reduce loads.  
Jan 9

Trucking to Face New Rules, Continue Road-Funding Push in 2014

A new highway finance law, greenhouse-gas emissions standards for commercial vehicles and a mandate for electronic logs to record drivers’ hours of service are some of the issues trucking will face in 2014. Also coming are the midterm congressional elections and a continuing barrage of new regulations aimed at improving highway safety and driver health.

 

A critical issue will be whether to raise federal fuel taxes to replenish the depleted Highway Trust Fund. A number of regulatory initiatives are expected in 2014, including a final rule requiring carriers to use electronic logs

The FMCSA is expected to come out with a proposal to create a new carrier-safety rating process and to set standards for testing drivers for sleep apnea. The FMCSA also is stepping up enforcement of new registration requirements for for-hire and private carriers, plus a new higher minimum surety bond requirement for freight brokers and forwarders that were part of MAP-21.

Also cited was the expansion of the Compliance, Safety, Ac-countability program — a system put in place by the FMCSA in 2010 to evaluate data from crashes, roadside inspection and compliance reviews to target carriers and drivers for enforcement action.

 

On January 1, new standards regulating greenhouse-gas emissions and fuel economy of heavy-duty trucks took effect. While the rules on NOx and soot remain in place, the Environmental Protection Agency and the NHTSA are adding grams of carbon dioxide emissions per ton-mile and gallons of fuel used per 1,000 ton-miles moved for truck makers.

In terms of the outlook for freight hauling, most industry observers said they expect a continuation of relatively modest growth, with some pockets of strong activity, such as the energy sector, and other areas of weak demand, such as retail.

The loss of productivity because of changes in HOS rules and the adoption of electronic logs will be partially offset by greater efficiencies.

Source: Transport Topics

FMCSA Revokes Around 2,000 Freight Broker Licenses

Nearly 10 percent of the nation’s freight brokers no longer have their licenses following new federal regulations that took effect requiring a higher bonding amount, while another source says the number is even higher.

 

Some 2,000 brokers have been affected, according to DC Velocity, after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began the broker license revocation process just after the start of December. It is unclear how many brokers voluntarily surrendered their licenses versus how many had their authority revoked.

The number is even higher, according to one of the nation’s largest surety bond sellers, JW Surety Bonds. In the first three days, about 3,800 broker authorities have been revoked.

Legislation passed last year by Congress and signed into law, requires brokers to post a $75,000 surety bond to guarantee payment to motor carriers if the broker fails to make good. The previous bond amount had been $10,000.

According to one estimate there are more than 21,000 freight brokers in the United States.

Enforcement of the higher broker bond amount took effect the first of October, but enforcement didn’t start until the first of December. A group of brokers opposed to the hike, The Association of Independent Property Brokers & Agents, lost a last minute court challenge to delay enforcement. 

Those in favor of the higher bonding amount include another broker group, the Transportation Intermediaries Association, along with the trucking groups the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations. 

 
Source: Heavy Duty Trucking

IRS Announces Procedural Changes

The federal Internal Revenue Service recently announced changes in two programs affecting certain business taxpayers.  The first alters the process by which IRS issues and enforces what it calls “information document requests,” or IDRs, on large businesses under audit.  In the future, IRS examiners are to discuss the parameters of an IDR with the business being audited, and make sure that the request is appropriate and appropriately limited. However, if the business doesn’t comply with the IDR timely, the new process also speeds up enforcement actions, and reduces the discretion auditors have in this respect. Some observers anticipate that the change may make IRS audits of large businesses even more contentious than they are now. For more, please visit www.irs.gov, and search for LB&I-04-1113-009. LB&I Directive issued November 4, 2013. The second change affects small businesses and the self-employed under audit. These taxpayers may now take advantage of a program that has previously been available to larger businesses that will enable them to employ alternative dispute resolution measures to settle issues within a couple of months, rather than litigating them over several years.  Not all issues are eligible for such treatment, however.  For more, go to the site shown above, and look under News & Events for the Fast Track Settlement Program. IRS Information Release 2013-88, issued November 6, 2013.

Governor Branstad Extends Disaster Declaration Exempting Propane Haulers from HOS Regulations

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed on Thursday an extension to last week’s emergency disaster declaration allowing for more propane transport during the harvest season.

 

Good for seven days through Thursday, November 14, the extension suspends the regulatory provisions relating to hours-of-service for drivers of commercial motor vehicles that are transporting propane. The order will expire at 11:59 pm on November 14, unless terminated sooner or extended by Governor Branstad.

The declaration includes several reasons for the proclamation, including the late harvest season, the need for continued supplies of propane for agricultural and housing needs, a short supply of propane, and to preserve the peace, health, and safety of the citizens of the State of Iowa.

The suspension of the hours-of-service regulations are subject to the following conditions: 

  • Nothing contained in this Proclamation shall be construed as an exemption from the controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements of Part 38 — the CDL requirements of Part 383. The financial responsibility requirements of part 387; or any other portion of the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • No carrier operating under the terms of this Proclamation shall require or allow a fatigued or ill driver to operate a motor vehicle. A driver who informs a carrier that he or she needs immediate rest shall be given at least ten consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to service.
  • Motor carriers that have an out-of-service order in effect may not take advantage of the relief from the regulations that this declaration provides.
  • Upon the expiration of the effective date of this Proclamation, or when a driver has been relieved of all duty and responsibility to provide direct assistance to the emergency effort, a driver that has had at least 34 consecutive hours off duty shall be permitted to start his or her on-duty status hours and 60/70 hour clock at zero. 

Please contact IMTA Director of Safety, Don Egli, with questions at (515) 244.5193.

Nov 4

FMCSA Formally Exempts Short-haul Drivers from Rest-Breaks Requirement

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration formally amended its new hours of service rule on October 25 to exempt short-haul drivers from taking a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving.

Specifically, the FMCSA said the exemption pertains to all drivers, whether they hold a commercial driver’s license or not, who operate within 100 miles of their duty location, and all drivers who operate within 150 miles of their normal work reporting location if they drive trucks that do not require a commercial driver license.

The hours rule was amended in response to an August 2 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholding most of the hours rule, but holding that short-haul drivers should not have to take the break. After the appeals court ruling, the FMCSA immediately said it would not enforce the rule for short-haul drivers.

The new hours of service rules took effect on July 1, 2013.

Source: Transport Topics