Update on FY14 Funding:
Congress has spent the past few weeks working to pass legislation providing funding for the 2014 federal fiscal year. As the October 1 deadline looms, it appears possible that there will be at least a short shutdown next week. Last week, the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the coming year at essentially the same levels as FY13 through December 15, 2013. While some conservatives in the House balked at the spending levels, the bill also contains language that would defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. Obama Care, which drew enough support from the right to move the bill through the House.
However, Senate Democrats have repeatedly said that any legislation that seeks to defund the President’s health care law would be rejected in the Senate. As promised, earlier today Senator Reid brought the House CR to Senate floor for consideration and immediately introduced an amendment replacing the text of the House-passed CR with his own proposal. The Senate includes funding levels in line with the House version, however, as expected, the bill eliminates the language defunding the ACA. It also adjusts the length of the CR, which would run out a full month earlier than the House proposal, on November 15.
Leaders in the House have already promised to amend the Senate-passed CR as soon as it reaches the House, hold a vote and send it back to the Senate, possibly as early as tomorrow. While it’s not clear what language the House will use to amend the Senate bill, it’s likely to be another attempt to defund or delay the ACA, forcing the Senate to decide between supporting the program and shutting down the government on October 1. Given Senator Reid’s strong stance on the ACA, it is becoming increasingly likely that there will be, at least, a short term shut down of the federal government next week as Congress works towards a compromise.
In preparation for the shutdown, Federal agencies began planning furloughs and determining which positions to deem ‘essential’. While official furlough notices would go out on Tuesday, some agencies, including DOT, have already notified employees of who will be furloughed in the event of a shutdown. However, because the MCSAP program is funded through the Highway Trust Fund, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not anticipate an impact to the program.
Update on Relevant Regulations:
FMCSA Issues Rule on Tank Vehicle Definition
On September 26, the FMCSA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking(NRPM) to revise its definition of “tank vehicle.” According to the notice, commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who operate such vehicles are required to obtain a tank vehicle endorsement. On May 9, 2011, FMCSA published a final rule on Commercial Driver’s License Testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit Standards” that included a new definition of tank vehicle which required additional drivers to obtain tank vehicle endorsements on their commercial learners’ permits (CLPs) and CDLs. After receiving numerous comments on the new definition, the Agency published guidance in the Federal Register to clarify the “tank vehicle” definition in May of this year. This NPRM revises the definition by incorporating the regulatory guidance published in May. Comments are due November 25.
PHMSA Publishes Updates on Special Permits
On September 26, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published several updates on Special Permit Applications.
· Special Permit Applications
· Additional Special Permit Applications
· Special Permit Modification Requests
· List of Special Permit Applications Delayed
PHMSA Proposes Rule Revoking Operating Authority for Non-payment of Penalties
On September 24, PHMSA published a NRPMin order to implement its authority to revoke operating authority from hazardous materials motor carriers who have failed to pay civil penalties within 90 days. The proposal also prohibits the motor carrier from engaging in hazmat operations “until payment has been made or an acceptable payment plan has been arranged.” Comments are due November 25.
FMCSA Proposed New Bus Leasing Requirements
On September 20, FMCSA released a NRPMadopting regulations governing the lease and interchange of passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This rule proposes to identify the motor carrier operating a passenger-carrying CMV; ensure that a lessor surrenders control of the CMV for the full term of the lease or temporary exchange of CMVs and drivers; and require motor carriers prohibited from operating in interstate commerce to notify FMCSA in writing before leasing or otherwise transferring control of their vehicles to other carriers. The new policies are intended to enable FMCSA to more easily identify passenger carriers in interstate commerce and correctly assign safety responsibility to these entities for regulatory violations during inspections, comprehensive investigations and crash studies. Comments are due November 19.
FMCSA Withdraws CMV Training Requirements NPRM
On September 19, FMCSA published a noticewithdrawing the agency’s December 2007 NRPM on Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level CMV Operators, announcing that a new rulemaking will be initiated. In the notice, FMCSA explains that the agency is withdrawing the 2007 proposal in response to feedback it received, deeming it inappropriate to move forward with a final rule based on the 2007 proposal. In addition, last year’s reauthorization legislation, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21), provided FMCSA with statutory direction on the issue of entry level driver training. FMCSA has tasked its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) to provide ideas the Agency should consider in implementing the MAP–21 requirements. The agency will issue a new rulemaking on the issue.
Other Items of Interest:
FMCSA To Miss Deadline on 34-Hour Restart Study
Earlier this month, FMCSA acknowledged that the agency would not meet the September 30 deadline for completing the 34-hour restart study mandated by MAP-21. The announcement came in response to a letter sent to the agency by four Congressmen, inquiring on the status of the study.
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