U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced the committee will convene on Wednesday, July 15, to consider and vote on S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015. The legislation authorizes the office of the secretary of transportation for the next six years (fiscal years 2016 through 2021) and contains key reforms to enhance safety, provide regulatory relief, streamline grant programs, and improve the accountability and efficiency of oversight efforts.
“As the Senate works to consider a multi-year plan to fund highway and other infrastructure projects, we also have the opportunity to enact reforms for the Department of Transportation that are vital for our economy and the safety of travelers in South Dakota and around the country,” said Thune. “This bill incorporates numerous proposals from the administration, bipartisan proposals put forward by senators, and proposals that have been previously considered and embraced by a consensus of the Commerce Committee. Among the many improvements this bill makes, I’m especially glad that we can provide some much-needed regulatory relief to our agriculture transporters, who are vital to South Dakota’s agriculture industry.”
By tradition, following committee approval, S. 1732 will be combined with S. 1647, the DRIVE Act, and component legislation from other Senate committees on the Senate floor as early as next week to form legislation commonly referred to as “The Highway Bill” or the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill.”
1. S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015
Executive Session Details:
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
10:00 a.m. EDT in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253
A live video of the mark-up and additional information will be available at http://1.usa.gov/1LUiwCz
Highlights of S. 1732:
Regulatory Reform, Relief, and Transparency
Cutting Red Tape – Provides permanent regulatory relief for drivers who transport livestock and bees by permitting hours of service exemptions.
Custom Harvester Protection – Would allow the operation of vehicles that provide fuel for agricultural operations to be exempt from the requirement of obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement, which would help individuals like custom harvesters.
Transparency – Requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to maintain updated records relating to regulatory guidance, and provides for regular review to ensure consistency and enforceability.
Port Performance Act – Includes legislation previously approved by the Commerce Committee to increase transparency of port operation by providing currently non-existent key metrics on port operations to help provide earlier warning of disruptions to various sectors of our economy following the recent nine month labor dispute at 29 West Coast container ports.
Freight: TIGER Reformed and Refocused
Develops a National Freight Strategy and Strategic Plan – Sets goals to enhance U.S. economic competitiveness by improving freight transportation networks that serve our agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and energy sectors. Focuses freight planning efforts in the Office of the Secretary with the Undersecretary for Policy to provide multimodal coordination.
Authorizes a Freight Grant Program – Formally authorizes the TIGER transportation grants program, and refocuses funding efforts on freight infrastructure. The bill reforms the project selection processes to increase accountability and transparency of grants.
Improved Project Delivery and Department of Transportation (DOT) Management
Project Streamlining – Building on the Administration’s proposed GROW AMERICA Act, the bill provides additional authority to streamline delivery of infrastructure projects and consolidate burdensome permitting regulations.
Responsible Management – Prohibits designating a single individual as a long term agency head without formally nominating a qualified candidate who is subject to formal consideration by the U.S. Senate.
Flexibility for States
Provides for Flexible State Planning – Improves freight planning efforts to ensure that freight planning is multimodal and addresses the links between highways, railroads, ports, airports, and pipelines.
Grant Consolidation – As proposed by the Administration GROW AMERICA Act, the bill consolidates FMCSA state trucking enforcement grants to provide additional flexibility to states to administer enforcement programs.
Grant Flexibility – Increases emphasis on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highway safety grants, allocated according to state population and road mileage, to address each state’s unique highway safety challenges and provide additional opportunities for states to obtain grants to combat impaired and distracted driving.
24/7 Sobriety Programs – Amends the grant for alcohol ignition interlock devices to include eligibility for states that provide 24/7 sobriety programs.
NHTSA Oversight and Improvement
Vehicle Recalls – Improves consumer awareness of vehicle safety information and requires franchised dealers and car rental companies to provide consumers with notification of open safety recalls. Increases the time consumers have to seek a free remedy for tire recalls and creates a state pilot grant to inform consumers of open vehicle recalls at the time of motor vehicle registration.
Provides Increased Oversight of NHTSA – Following a record number of recalls for defects linked to fatalities, high profile failures by the auto safety regulator and expert testimony that the most immediate needs are to fix fundamental problem of NHTSA’s defect identification and investigation process and not substantial increased funding, the bill requires the DOT Inspector General and NHTSA to provide updates on how NHTSA is addressing these problems and directs audits of NHTSA’s management of vehicle safety recalls, public awareness of recall information, and NHTSA’s research efforts.
Promoting Crash Avoidance Technology – Adds a requirement that crash avoidance information, such as active braking and lane-tracking technology, be included next to the 5-star information on the car sticker for consumers purchasing new vehicles.
Passenger Rail – Includes the bipartisan Railroad Reform Enhancement and Efficiency Act, which was amended and passed the Commerce Committee by unanimous voice vote, increasing safety, improving infrastructure, cutting red tape, and empowering state and local officials.