No news is good news — The latest on DOT funding bills, trucking regulations within

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Updated Jun 9, 2015
Will Congress be able to work changes to trucking regulations into this year’s DOT appropriations bills?Will Congress be able to work changes to trucking regulations into this year’s DOT appropriations bills?

With Congress returning from its roughly two-week Memorial Day recess, work likely will resume in the coming week on 2016 appropriations bills for the Department of Transportation — the so-called THUD bills. (The same bill also funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development.) And that legislation by some measures could earn the trucking industry a few regulatory victories.

The expiration of the current year’s DOT funding bill — the one that rolled back some hours-of-service regulations — is still a ways off, but Congress has already started at least a little work on the 2016 version of a DOT appropriations bill, standard procedure for lawmakers.

The latest? President Obama has threatened to veto the House’s version, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is celebrating a victory relative to a provision in the bill that would block FMCSA from raising liability insurance minimums for motor carriers.

An amendment proposed to the House’s version that would have nixed the language barring FMCSA’s insurance rule failed, keeping that section in tact.

Also, as reported by CCJ of late, the House’s version of the 2016 funding bill would change the language slightly relative to the stay of enforcement of the suspended hours-of-service changes. Notably, it spells out the requirements needed for the 2013-implemented hours changes to go back into effect: The field study FMCSA is performing on the rules’ efficacy must show that the 2013-implemented hours-of-service rules reduce fatigue — and therefore crash risk — of truck operators abiding by them.

OOIDA and the American Trucking Associations have signaled the House could vote on the bill’s passage as early as next week.

The Senate, however, still has not produced its text for a 2016 DOT funding bill. Its version of the bill must be filed, sent to committee, passed by committee then brought to the Senate floor for a vote before it passes.

Last year’s Senate version set a deadline for FMCSA to produce a Safety Fitness Determination rule incorporating roadside inspection, violation and crash data (which has been in the works for about a decade) and a deadline for a Final Rule to mandate electronic logging devices.

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Both of those provisions were ultimately stripped from the Senate version, but Congress’ upper chamber could try to take aim at FMCSA again with its 2016 version.

CCJ will have more coverage of the THUD bills as Congress works on them.