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redundant programs, speeds project approval; and steers clear of the tempting, but ill- advised use of tolls on existing Interstates,” Graves said. Other elements ATA support include the

creation of a clearinghouse for commercial drivers’ drug and alcohol test results; establishment of a notification system so employers can be told of drivers’ traffic infractions; moving toward crashworthiness standards for large trucks; raising the bar for companies and drivers coming into the trucking industry; and mandating electronic logs for all commercial drivers.

The bill also would give the Federal

Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) authority to set safety fitness requirements for drivers, and to bar those the agency determines to be unfit for up to a year. A number of exemptions for agricultural

trucking are included as well. The Senate defeated an amendment that

would have permitted states to commercialize highway rest areas. The Owner-Operators Independent

Drivers Association (OOIDA) voiced qualified support for the Senate proposal. “While not perfect, the passing of this

bill represents an important step forward in reforming our surface transportation programs back to where they belong, which is to focus on maintaining and improving our roads and bridges,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. In addition to praising the amendment

which would prevent highway tax dollars from being diverted for privatized highways, OOIDA also backed provisions that address the truck parking shortage and reform freight brokerage rules by, among other things, upping the bond requirement to $100,000. Of course, the small business association

doesn’t see eye-to-eye with ATA on everything. “While there are still complications such as

an EOBR mandate in this bill, we are relieved that a significant first step has been taken,” added Spencer. “This bill has a long way to go before it gets to the president’s desk, and OOIDA will continue to fight against costly and unnecessary mandates.” Over in the House, where partisanship

has become a point of pride — and where even the Republican majority find themselves agreeing to disagree — a much more ambitious five-year, $260 billion package narrowly made it out of the Transportation committee, then stalled on the floor. The House plan bogged down because of

some controversial elements of it own (such as removing funding for mass transit from the reauthorization) and because of some sweeteners that were added to tempt the more fiscally conservative members, such as expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, ties to the Keystone pipeline and adjustments to the way federal employees pay into their pension plans. “The House bill takes us back to the dark

ages,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman, told reporters ahead of committee markup. A key trucking-related provision would

require the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study on the 34-hour restart rule of the Hours of Service. If the study does not support the provision, it would require FMCSA to conduct yet another rulemaking to modify the rule. In a setback for ATA, language that would

have left the question of heavier trucks to the states was changed to require instead a three- year study on the safety concerns, costs, and adverse effects on our nation’s highways and bridges by increasing the truck weight to 97,000 pounds with six axles.

8 ROADWISE | ISSUE 2, 2012 |

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