Final bill omits surcharges, hours protection

After years of negotiations, compromises and veto threats, legislation to direct and fund highway safety and construction projects appears close to becoming law.

Congress has agreed on a final version of H.R 3, or the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The bill will reauthorize highway safety and development programs.

H.R. 3, which has been approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate, contains some wins and losses for the trucking industry. The bill does not adopt mandatory fuel surcharges for truckload operations – as many owner-operators and small trucking companies had hoped.

And the bill does not codify the current hours-of-service rule, a strategy that had been sought by the U.S. Department of Transportation and many in the trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration probably will need to move forward with issuing a revised regulation as required by a federal appeals court. FMCSA’s temporary reprieve from the court order runs out Sept. 30.

Some other provisions of the legislation include:

  • Setting standards for a unified carrier registration system.
  • Mandating regulations to ensure that intermodal equipment used to transport intermodal containers is safe and systematically maintained.
  • Terminating the registration requirement for freight forwarders and brokers, but giving DOT the authority to require registration at the department’s discretion.
  • Allowing DOT to shut carriers down if an officer has engaged in a pattern or practice of avoiding compliance or concealing noncompliance.
  • Expanding access by pre-employment screening services to driver safety information in FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System, including accident and violation reports.
  • Easing qualifications for insulin-dependent diabetic drivers seeking a waiver to hold a commercial drivers license.

    President Bush threatened to veto earlier versions of the bill because it included too much money for highway construction and other programs, but the final compromise version is closer to what the White House originally had in mind, and Bush now is expected to sign it.

    For a copy of the final legislation, visit and search H.R. 3.