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Long-term highway bill clears House committee

Oct. 23, 2015
Package includes CSA reforms and other trucking provisions

The House Transportation and Infrastructure committee has done its part, approving on Thursday the policy portion of a six-year, $325 billion highway bill that includes sweeping reforms to Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) system, a streamlined process training and testing veterans to become truck drivers, and a graduated CDL program for novice drivers under 21 years old.

During the 5-hour session, a number of amendments relating ti truck size and weight, however, were withdrawn by sponsors as Shuster insisted that items without broad, bipartisan support would not be attached the committee’s plan.

Still to be determined, however, is how the plan will be funded. If passed on the House floor, a conference committee would then merge the House and Senate versions for the final legislation. The most recent extension to MAP-21, the current surface transportation program, expires at the end of the month, however. In an address at ATA Management Conference and Exhibition earlier this week, Shuster said expects another extension to allow Congress to complete the new package by the end of the year.

The CSA portion of the bill requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to commission the National Research Council to study the carrier ranking system and the Safety Measurement System data at the heart of it to determine whether the BASICs work as intended in identifying high risk carriers and predicting future crash risk.

The review would also look at the data reporting coming from each state, and how the public uses the posted carrier SMS data—and “what effect making the SMS information public has had on reducing crashes and eliminating unsafe motor carriers from the industry.”

FMCSA must also submit a plan for “corrective action” to address the report’s findings to the DOT Inspector General for review.

A “Beyond Compliance” portion of the bill calls for SMS changes that would recognize and improve the scores for carriers which install advanced safety equipment, use enhanced driver fitness measures, and adopt fleet safety management programs.

Until the CSA program is reviewed and reformed accordingly, the bill requires that “no information regarding analysis of violations, crashes in which a determination is made that the motor carrier or the commercial motor vehicle driver is not at fault, alerts, or the relative percentile for each BASIC developed under the CSA program may be made available to the public.”

Inspection and violation information, out-of-service rates, and “absolute measures,” however, will remain public.

The bill would also require FMCSA to answer for delays in a number of safety initiatives, including the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, ELDs and driver training standards.

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