In mid-June, the U.S. House of Representatives initiated an appropriations bill that, if passed, would not only fund the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the 2018 fiscal year, but it would allow the following:
- Exempt (or delay) livestock and insect haulers from meeting the DOT electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.
- Prohibit states from requiring carriers to give truck drivers paid meal and rest breaks (the Denham Amendment).
- Require the FMCSA to adopt reforms to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) carrier safety rating system before they can continue with their Safety Fitness Determination rule.
Since it was unveiled in June 2017, the House’s bill has passed by the House Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee and has the stamp of approval from the House Appropriations Committee.
The Senate’s DOT Bill
Following in the wake of the House’s DOT bill, however, is the Senate’s initial draft of their 2018 fiscal year DOT-funding bill and legislation.
Interestingly enough, the Senate’s version of the DOT bill contains none of the trucking provisions included in the House’s version. There is, however, a separate Senate bill that does propose to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, which does include the Denham Amendment seen in the House’s bill.
So, with no language on the topic of ELDs, paid meal or rest breaks, carrier safety ratings, etc., is there anything tucking-related in the Senate’s DOT bill? Yes. The Senate’s DOT bill simply includes two amendments on truck size and weight limits in North Dakota and New Hampshire. The bill proposes that in North Dakota, trucks weighing up to 129,000 pounds should be allowed to operate, and likewise in New Hampshire, trucks that weigh up to 99,000 pounds. That’s 49,000 pounds and 19,000 pounds more, respectively, over the national gross vehicle weight limit of 80,000 pounds! Some states have, however, been testing their roadway’s truck size and weight limits, so this could very well transition into a new law that’s seen across the country.
Status of the Senate’s DOT Bill
As of July 28th, 2017, the Senate’s DOT bill was in the hands of the full Senate, where their full consideration would include the amendments above, plus the possible addition of issues covered in the House’s version of the bill — electronic logging devices, livestock hauler ELD delays, driver breaks, safety rating systems, etc.
House vs. Senate Bills — Why Both Matter
While neither the House nor the Senate has indicated a timeline for when these bills will be considered, paying attention to the evolution of both bills’ details matter, for if the two chambers don’t pass identical bills, legislators will need to work together to produce a unified bill. During this unification process, it’s quite possible that trucking-related reforms could be adopted or dropped from one or the other, including e-log issues. For the final bill to become law, it must eventually be passed by both the House and the Senate and then signed by President Trump.
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