Senate bill would extend registration system

Legislation inserted into the Senate version of the Department of Transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 5576) would delay the repeal of the Single State Registration System (SSRS) until Jan. 1, 2008 – 12 months beyond the current sunset of the program. Another provision would restore DOT’s obligation to regulate freight forwarders and property brokers. Both provisions would modify provisions adopted as part of last year’s major highway legislation.

In the highway bill, Congress had ordered the SSRS repealed, effective Jan. 1, 2007, and replaced with the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) system. But DOT did not name members of the UCR board of directors until May, making it very difficult for the UCR to be implemented by Jan. 1. Indeed, in its first act, the UCR board approved a resolution calling on a one-year delay in SSRS termination.

In its report (Senate Report 109-293) on H.R. 5576, the Senate Appropriations Committee said that “repeal of SSRS is premature given that progress on instituting the UCR has been insignificant.” If SSRS expires before the UCR system is implemented, states could lose $100 million in registration fees that often are used to cover the cost of transportation safety and enforcement programs, the committee said. The panel also asked that the Government Accountability Office report quarterly on the progress being made in establishing the UCR.

Another provision in last year’s highway bill had the effect of giving DOT authority to stop requiring the registration of freight forwarders and property brokers. The legislation included in H.R. 5576 states that DOT will register those parties fit, willing and able to provide those services and comply with applicable DOT regulations.

A final provision corrects language in the highway bill related to the definition of motor carriers. As originally enacted, the definitions would have resulted in unintended overtime exemption consequences for drivers of trucks with gross ratings of less than 10,001 pounds.

The House passed its version of H.R. 5576 in June. The full Senate still must approve the bill before differences are settled in conference.