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Highway Law Funds Infrastructure, Mandates EOBRs

Highway Law Funds Infrastructure, Mandates EOBRs

U.S. President Barack Obama signed the transportation reauthorization law, authorizing $105 billion in spending for highways and public transit over the next two years and government mandates intended to increase safety, such as mandatory electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) and the creation of a federal drug and alcohol clearinghouse.

The last comprehensive funding law expired in September 2009 and underwent nine extensions before Congress reached an agreement on the final bill — named MAP-21 for “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.”

Many in the industry criticized the bill for not addressing long-term funding for the nation’s highway system or the Highway Trust Fund—the current funding mechanism for transportation infrastructure projects—which is going broke.

Several groups, including the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged Congress to raise the 24.4 cent diesel tax and the 18.4 cent gasoline tax to boost revenue.

However, the bill stipulates that all federal taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline, and all excise taxes on trucks, tractors and tires, will remain unchanged through Sept. 30, 2016, and the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax will remain unchanged through Sept. 30, 2017.

Because of the shortage, billions of dollars in general fund money will continue to supplement transportation spending.

The law did address several safety-related issues. Under MAP-21, the Department of Transportation (DOT) must establish regulations mandating EOBRs within one year. Despite the law, the House recently approved a bill that would block the mandate.

In addition, the DOT must create and maintain a national clearinghouse to capture drivers’ positive drug or alcohol test results and records of refusals to test.

As a result of the clearing house, employers will be able to check driver records across employers. Currently, when a driver moves from one trucking company to another, some positive drug and alcohol test results are not discovered by the hiring company because the results are self-reported and not centrally tracked.

Motor carriers will be required to query the clearinghouse when screening new driver applicants.

Another provision within the law designed to increase safety concerns driver moving violations. Within one year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must establish standards for state systems that automatically notify motor carriers of drivers’ moving violations and suspensions.

Motor carriers may use these systems to meet the current annual motor vehicle record review requirements. FMCSA will develop a national system within two years.

The bill calls for a national freight program, which will include an assessment of the condition and performance of the national freight network and identification of highway freight bottlenecks.

However, the law doesn’t including funding for the program. The law also calls for several studies that could increase safety, including a field study looking into the effectiveness of the 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule and a comprehensive size and weight study.

Under the law, truck size and weight will remain the same, but DOT is required to conduct the study within two years, and to compile a list of the existing truck size and weight limit laws in every state.

By “Move Ahead” Staff