Washington Insider
No matter the path, OOIDA ready to battle on approps bill

The term “Regular Order” is one of those terms that you hear a lot inside the Beltway. The phrase refers to the process of approving all 12 appropriations (funding) bills individually rather than lumping them all together in one “omnibus” package.

Like many things in Washington, it’s more of a myth than a reality. In fact, 1994 was the last time Congress achieved Regular Order. That did not stop party leaders, both Republican and Democrat, from making it a priority earlier this year – in the first congressional session under new House Speaker Paul Ryan. However, with the annual summer recess looming, the goal of Regular Order appears out of reach once again.

As of early June, the Senate has passed three appropriations bills while their counterparts in the House of Representatives have passed a grand total of one. Controversial amendments related to foreign policy and gay rights have done their part to delay progress this year.

Given the lack of legislative days remaining until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, there is no way Congress will get through all of the spending bills without passing a short-term funding extension. However, there is a chance they could finish the measure that matters to the trucking industry – the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill (T-HUD or THUD for short).

The THUD bill provides funding for pretty much all of our nation’s federal transportation spending, including the Department of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and grants for national and local infrastructure projects. While overall THUD spending levels do not differ too much from year to year, recently Congress has taken the approach of attaching different policy provisions to appropriations bills that can shape the rules of our nation’s highways.

The Senate version of the THUD bill was passed in May and contains potentially harmful language pertaining to hours of service and speed limiters. The HOS provision would create a 73-hour weekly cap that limits the flexibility and usefulness of the current 34-hour restart. An amendment that was introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., would direct the Department of Transportation to produce a final rule mandating speed limiters on trucks within six months of the bill being signed into law. These stipulations are not included in the current House THUD legislation and are far from being signed into law.

The House version, although approved by the Appropriations Committee, has not made it to the House floor yet. As currently written, the bill would maintain the current 34-hour restart rules and does not contain any language mandating speed limiters. The bill also prohibits the FMCSA from moving forward with their Safety Fitness Determination rulemaking that was proposed in January until an independent review of the CSA and SMS scores is completed by the National Academy of Sciences.

Neither the House nor Senate versions include a controversial piece-rate pay provision. This provision, which was not included in last year’s FAST Act, but has been advocated by large carriers, would limit drivers from being paid unless the wheels of the truck are moving.

Party leadership and the pursuit of a Regular Order process will determine what becomes of this year’s THUD legislation. Another delay, especially on the House side, would certainly result in THUD being included in an Omnibus package at the end of the year. This is the most likely scenario and has been the case the past few legislative cycles. Such a result would limit the number of policy provisions included in any final legislation with perhaps only hours of service being addressed. If the House moves quickly to pass their version on the floor, then a more robust combination of the two bills could eventually be finalized.

Either way, OOIDA will be fighting to keep the current 34-hour restart rules intact and fighting back against any efforts that mandate speed limiters. LL