On May 22, 2018, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) President Capt. Christopher Turner with the Kansas Highway Patrol testified at the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing titled “FAST Act Implementation: Motor Carrier Provisions.”
Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) convened the hearing to receive feedback, views and information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), law enforcement and other motor carrier stakeholders regarding the implementation of various motor carrier provisions passed in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.
Passed in 2015, the FAST Act is a funding and authorization bill that governs U.S. federal surface transportation spending. Its intent is to provide long-term funding certainty for highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, and transportation research, technology and statistics programs.
The hearing started with testimony from FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez who addressed this subcommittee for the first time as the agency’s administrator. Administrator Martinez discussed FMCSA’s plans and goals, and answered questions from the members of the subcommittee.
During the second half of the hearing, in addition to CVSA, the subcommittee also heard testimony from representatives of the school bus industry, livestock industry and truck safety advocacy community.
Capt. Turner’s testimony focused on the need for clear and efficient regulations and a more effective rulemaking process. He stressed that the history of delays in official issuance of rules and regulations has created challenges, conflicts and discrepancies. In addition, Capt. Turner discussed the challenges faced by the enforcement community regarding inconsistencies in federal motor carrier safety regulations caused by exceptions, exemptions and waivers and the continued need for international harmonization.
CVSA is generally opposed to the inclusion of exemptions in legislation. The Alliance recognizes that there may be instances when exemptions are appropriate and do not compromise safety; however, overall, CVSA believes exemptions have the potential to undermine safety and complicate enforcement.
“It is critical to both the enforcement community and the motor carrier industry that federal motor carrier safety regulations are clear, effective and enforceable,” said Capt. Turner. “No matter where you stand on the role of government in regulation, we should all be able to agree that maintaining the regulations, keeping them current and clear, is a necessary and important function.”
Capt. Turner added, “When the regulations lack clarity, it reduces their effectiveness, creating confusion and inconsistencies in enforcement, which in turn leads to unnecessary conflict between enforcement and industry.”
In CVSA’s written testimony, the Alliance stated that, “clarity, consistency, uniformity and enforceability are the cornerstones of an effective regulatory framework. Confusion and inconsistencies create more work for the enforcement community and the transportation industry. Inconsistencies and exceptions within the regulations require more training and create more opportunities for mistakes, which in turn require additional resources to correct.”
In addition, while recognizing that FMCSA needs the resources, technical staff, authority and time to meet the agency’s core responsibilities, Capt. Turner noted a near standstill of regulatory activity by the agency, with a growing backlog of rulemakings and petitions, and called upon FMCSA to work to advance its regulatory progress and meet its key requirements, such as finalizing a new Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) grant formula and improving the agency’s aging IT and data systems.
Other witnesses who presented testimony included:
- Honorable Ray Martinez, Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- Dale Krapf, Chairman, Krapf Transportation
- Mike VanMaanen, Owner, Eastern Missouri Commission Company; on behalf of Livestock Marketing Association
- Jennifer Tierney, Board Member, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways; on behalf of Truck Safety Coalition
During their testimonies and the subsequent questions from committee members, a few topics were common: implementation of the electronic logging device requirement, hours-of-service regulations, progress of the provision of the FAST act to encourage military veterans to enter the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) industry, autonomous vehicle technology, the growing shortage of qualified CMV operators, the merit of an automatic emergency brake mandate, underride protection and potential modifications to the minimum operator training standards.