FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg last week urged the Senate transportation committee to make the 2003 hours of service (HOS) rule permanent via the Senate version of the upcoming highway bill reauthorization.
Sandberg pointed to FMCSA’s notice of proposed rulemaking published on Jan. 24, which essentially proposes keeping the existing rules, and added that the agency is on track to complete its final rule by its September deadline.
“I am concerned that the revised rule will open the agency and the department to the same kinds of legal challenges we have experienced already,” Sandberg said. “For this reason, (FMCSA) seeks the inclusion of language in the Senate reauthorization bill that will make the 2003 rule permanent and allow FMCSA the opportunity to revise the rule, if necessary.”
The agency has made other specific recommendations on amending the Senate version of the highway bill, one of which is to remove language mandating fuel surcharges (H.R. 3, section 4139), which would require payers of motor carrier transportation services to pay for fluctuations in diesel fuel prices.
“The mandatory fuel surcharge for truckload transportation prescribed would insinuate government into commercial relationships in a way that is ill-advised and would reverse a quarter-century of (deregulatory) U.S. economic policy,” Sandberg said.
Additionally, FMCSA has asked the Senate committee for the creation of a standing medical review board to provide the agency with expert medical advice on driver qualification standards and guidelines, medical examiner education, and research.
Sandberg complained that the current medical review board, which consists of approximately 300,000 medical examiners that evaluate 6.4 commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers on a biennial basis, is insufficient.
“While I appreciate the Committee’s inclusion of the medical registry provision, I urge the Committee to rework the review board model and provide adequate funding to maximize our ability to make appropriate medical standards for CMV drivers,” Sandberg said.
After the Senate ratifies its own version of the highway bill, both Senate and House committees will negotiate the final legislation. Congress is looking to reauthorize the highway bill before the current one expires on May 31.