Federal Update
What’s in the highway bill? Here’s a primer on the biggies

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The highway bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act also known as MAP-21, is a whopping 599 pages. It’s got everything from roads and bridges to transit and waterways. But what truckers want to know more about is how the bill will shape the future of trucking.

Here’s a primer on the top trucking-specific issues included in the bill:

  EOBRs Yep, they are in there. But don’t think for a minute this bill did FMCSA any favors. The list of technical specs is long and complicated. So much so, current devices may very well not fully comply.

Oh yeah, driver harassment is in there too. Guess they read the decision in OOIDA’s win over the first round of EOBRs. The agency has to ensure drivers can’t be harassed. Now just how to do it?

  Broker bond The days of bad brokers skating by with $10,000 bonds is close to over. Congress has upped the broker bond amount to $75,000. See related story, Page 38.

  Crashworthiness standards Thanks to Sarah Van Wasshnova’s fight, the DOT has to study the crashworthiness of heavy-duty trucks. Things to be considered? Roof strength, pillar strength, air bags, occupant protection standards as well as front and back wall standards. See related story, Page 32.

  Jason’s Law Tireless advocate Hope Rivenburg’s efforts were rewarded with the inclusion of Jason’s Law in the highway bill. The provision makes safe parking for truckers a national priority. See related story, Page 32.

  Driver training The 20-plus-year battle over mandatory driver training continues. Congress is once again mandating actual behind-the-wheel training administered by legitimate training providers. This was first mandated by Congress in 1991. Regulators went through the process and in 2004 issued a watered-down rule that fell short of the mandate.

OOIDA sued and won in 2006. FMCSA then did a notice of proposed rulemaking in ’07. Nothing more since then has been done. That could be why Congress is mandating it – again. A final rule is to be in place “not later than one year” after the highway bill is signed.

  Truck size and weight This pesky issue pops its head back up in the highway bill in the form of a study, and a comprehensive study at that. The study is to include crash data, ability of the roads to handle different axle configurations, what freight diversions would occur, etc., etc.

  HOS restart study With the changes to the 34-hour restart provision requiring two overnight periods and limiting its use, the highway bill has ordered a study of the provision.

  Drug and alcohol clearinghouse Congress is mandating that a database of positive test results be maintained by FMCSA. This isn’t anything new, really. FMCSA has a notice of proposed rulemaking in the process. It’s expected later this year.

  Registration of motor carriersIf you’re starting up a new business, be prepared to know your stuff. FMCSA is directed to develop a proficiency test as part of the application process.

  Reincarnated carriers The bill is giving FMCSA a lot more power over the agents who want to skirt safety regs and open up under new company names. The bill expands the reasons why motor carriers can be shut down.

  Rogue management The corporate environment of any company is set with its leadership. The highway bill recognizes that and gives FMCSA the power to revoke a company’s authority if its officers show a pattern of avoiding compliance, masking or otherwise concealing noncompliance.

  Medical certification Remember all of the medical examiner registries, and the med cert change that has you going to the DMV with your card now? It’s all in the highway bill again. Guess Congress is trying to light a fire under FMCSA’s feet to get the comprehensive overhaul of the system done.

  CDL notification system Motor carriers (even owner-ops) are required to check CDL status annually. The highway bill presses the agency to move forward with a Driver Record Notification System. One less call to the DMV may be in your future.

  Vehicle-to-vehicle communication Congress wants to know the status of technology currently being studied that has cars and trucks talking to each other and the infrastructure. Congress wants an update on that as well. On a side note, it’s rumored and hinted too by NHTSA that the agency may initiate a rulemaking sometime in late 2013 or 2014.

  Priority for highway spending – Puts up walls to prevent highway money from being used to fund museums, bike paths and flower plantings. The protections go further to protect road money than in any other highway bill since 1991.

   Tolling – While the law makes it easier for states to use tolls to fund new roads and bridges, the language protects existing roads, including interstates, from being tolled.

  Distracted driving – Calls for a federal study on distracted driving to determine “the effect of distractions other than the use of personal wireless communications on motor vehicle safety.”

  And just for funA study on Asian carp is mandated. Oh yeah, and a change to the Internal Revenue Code definition of roll-your-own cigarette machines. LL

Associate Editor David Tanner contributed to this report.