Yesterday, December 2, 2015, Congress released a report detailing the results of the bicameral agreement reached concerning the terms of the surface transportation reauthorization bill commonly known as the “Drive” Act or the “FAST Act” (“Fixing America’s Surface Transportation”). The original House and Senate proposals for the Act included a number of anti-safety provisions which were strenuously objected to by Public Safety Advocates, including Trucking Attorneys like myself. I pointed out some of the key problems with the initial proposal in a prior blog.
Fortunately, the Members of Congress serving on the Conference Committee listened to the facts and to the arguments presented for greater safety, and made a number of positive changes to the final bill.
Examples of these improvements include:
- Removal of a section which provided exemptions to hours of service requirements for certain classes of truck drivers;
- Modifications to the “teen drivers provision” such that there will be a limited pilot program and a greatly reduced volume of higher-risk drivers who are permitted to drive large trucks across state lines;
- Removal of a provision designed to limit the liability of shippers and brokers who negligently hire unsafe trucking companies;
- Removal of a proposed Amendment which would have prohibited states from providing additional meal and break protections for truck drivers; and,
- Modifications to the language in the Act that will eliminate some of the hurdles the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must navigate in making its determination as to whether minimum insurance limits for large trucks should be raised.
Unfortunately, not all of the anti-safety provisions were eliminated from the final bill. The bill still includes:
- Vehicle weight limit exemptions for the shippers of logging products and milk products, and for large trucks powered by natural gas; and,
- Provisions restricting public access to certain CSA scoring data, and implementing other procedures which may impact the Safety Management System (“SMS”) ratings maintained by the FMCSA for trucking companies.
While the bill is not entirely free of anti-safety provisions, I would like to extend a thank you to those Members of Congress who listened to the appeals for public safety and worked to improve the final bill.