In what might prove to the final meaningful battle over the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, the U.S. House of Representatives on September 6 decisively rejected legislation to postpone mandatory ELDs for two years beyond its scheduled December 18 implementation date. The 173-246 vote on an amendment to a package of multiple appropriations bills bundled into H.R. 3354 came just one day after Congress returned from its traditional August break. The measure was offered by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), the primary sponsor of a separate bill (HR. 3282) to delay the ELD mandate two years. The vote on the Babin amendment was highly partisan with just eight Democrats joining 165 Republicans to support it.
Although H.R. 3282 has 45 co-sponsors, it stands no chance of being enacted on its own. Moreover, the Senate version of the DOT appropriations bill (S. 1655) includes no discussion of ELDs at all, and an amendment like Babin’s would stand very little chance of passage during Senate floor consideration.
The House also accepted by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania) to block funding for the joint FMCSA/NHTSA rulemaking on speed limiters for large commercial vehicles. It is not clear that the measure, if finalized, will mean much as the Trump administration had already signaled that the speed limiter rule was not a high priority. On the other hand, it remains the only significant rulemaking from the Obama era that has not been formally withdrawn.
H.R. 3354 includes the text of the DOT appropriations bill (H.R. 3353) approved by the House Appropriations Committee, including relief from the ELD mandate for haulers of livestock and bees. The bill also includes a provision that would bar states from regulating meal and rest breaks applicable to employees subject to the hours-of-service regulations and from “imposing any additional obligations on motor carriers if such employees work to the full extent or at such times as permitted.” The same language also is included in the Senate version of the Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill (S. 1405), which the Senate Commerce Committee approved in late June, but it is not included in the Senate DOT funding bill.
Other items of note in H.R. 3354 are a prohibition against a safety fitness determination rulemaking until an FMCSA corrective action plan related to the recent National Academy of Sciences report is certified and a set-aside of $100 million for FMCSA to test highly automated commercial vehicles.
In addition to measures in the appropriations bill, Congress has a few other trucking-related bills that could advance this fall. The House in July passed a Department of Homeland Security authorization bill (H.R. 2825) that includes several changes related to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program, background checks for hazmat endorsements and awareness training requirements for motor carrier employees. And the Senate Commerce Committee in August approved bills (S. 1532, S. 1536) related to trucking and human trafficking, including a lifetime disqualification for a commercial driver who uses a commercial motor vehicle in committing a felony related to human trafficking.