Congress and Agencies Examining Priorities for 2017

 

January 25, 2017 - As the U.S. Senate confirms nominees to lead Cabinet-level agencies and the Trump Administration fills in policy leadership in Washington, DC, both Congress and the Agencies are laying out their top priorities for 2017.  Approving nominations, including a potential Supreme Court nominee, will occupy much of the Senate’s time for the next 100 days.  However, leadership in the Administration, Senate, and House of Representatives are already laying out an aggressive agenda for the coming year that may include healthcare and tax reform, renegotiation of trade agreements, and rolling back rulemakings of the previous Obama Administration.

TAX:  House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX/8th) spoke to a gathering of businesses leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, January 24,, 2017.  In his remarks, Brady laid out an aggressive agenda for the chief tax-writing committee in the House of Representatives. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act will be the top priority for the Committee, followed by pursuing the aggressive tax reform blueprint laid out in the “A Better Way” tax proposal from House Republican Leadership.  One notably contentious provision from this proposal is a new $1.2 trillion Border Adjustable Tax.  This tax, which would impose a 20 percent tax on imports and provide an exemption for all export-related income, has raised concerns in the business community about protectionism and a forced realignment of global supply chains.

 

TRADE:  In addition to tax and healthcare, a signature issue during the 2016 Presidential campaign was the renegotiation of multilateral trade agreements, including NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada), in favor of bilateral agreements.  One of the first actions of the new Trump Administration was withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was negotiated between twelve countries which together represent approximately 40% of the world’s economic output.  Prior to the election, free-trade agreements had been a top priority for many pro-business Republicans and Democrats for decades.  Many senior leaders in the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle supported NAFTA, CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which was an expansion of NAFTA to five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Withdrawing from these various multi-lateral trade agreements could have a major impact on supply chains and consumer costs, depending on how any change is implemented.

REGULATIONS:  On Friday, January 19, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order to all federal agencies directing them to freeze any new regulations pending further review from the new Administration.  While there is an exception for regulations that impact “health, safety, financial or national security matters,” it is unclear how this freeze will impact transportation regulations.  Major rules such as the mandate for Electronic Logging Devices by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Sanitary Transport of Human and Animal Food rule by the Food and Drug Administration, were finalized early enough in the Obama Administration that this freeze will have no effect and those rules will continue to be fully implemented.

Rulemakings that were not completed by the Obama Administration such as the Safety Fitness Determination Rulemaking at FMCSA will likely not go forward until the new Administration has reviewed the issues.  Similarly, an indefinite delay on the implementation of the Unified Registration System (URS), will remain until the new Administration is able to fully implement the electronic system required by its own rulemaking.

TIA Government affairs staff and the TIA Political Action Committee are working hard every day to ensure that the voice of the 3PL industry is heard on these important laws and regulations.  For more information please contact advocacy@tianet.org or 703-299-5700.


TIA Joins Other Transportation Stakeholders Asking President Trump
for Long-term Infrastructure Funding

January 19, 2017 – The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) has signed onto a letter joining several other transportation industry stakeholders, urging President Trump to strengthen our nation’s economy and improve America’s competitiveness through significant investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

An excerpt of the letter is available below:

“We can no longer afford to underinvest in the infrastructure that Americans rely on in our daily lives. Any responsible proposal must provide improvements to all types of infrastructure throughout the country and address large important projects that make our businesses more competitive by reducing shipping, commuting, water and energy costs. At the same time, your administration and Congress must restore solvency to the Highway Trust Fund to ensure that the federal government can maintain a state of the art infrastructure system. This will require a commitment to a long-term, reliable, dedicated, user-based revenue source for the Highway Trust Fund and the effective surface transportation programs it supports.

While recent laws authorizing federal highway and surface transportation programs have greatly improved the effectiveness and efficiency of these programs, the long-run solvency of the Highway Trust Fund has been left unresolved. Failure to resolve the issues facing the trust fund prior to the expiration of the current law in 2020, will require you to make a decision to either pass additional short-term stopgap measures or find a $110 billion off-set to pass a long-term bill that will at best maintain current funding levels that do not meet our transportation infrastructure needs. Absent long-term stability for the Highway Trust Fund, many projects critical to the efficient movement of people and goods have the real potential to be backlogged or never built. Further, mounting deferred maintenance could cause current infrastructure to fall into an even greater state of disrepair.

An infrastructure initiative led by your administration is a generational opportunity to end the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued America’s infrastructure network and usher in a new era of stability and improvements we so desperately need. However, this will take leadership and bold, innovative solutions. It is critical that your infrastructure plan not only encourages greater participation from the private sector in infrastructure projects and reduces needless red tape, but also provides real revenue for the Highway Trust Fund that will help the users and beneficiaries of America’s transportation and freight network. Private financing, while important and needed, cannot replace the role of public funding and federal leadership.”

If you have any questions, contact TIA Advocacy (advocacy@tianet.org, 703.299.5700). 





Surface Transportation Board Denies Request to Investigate Changes to the Universal Bill of Lading


January 10, 2017 – The Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced its decision to deny the request for the Transportation and Logistics Council (TLC) to investigate amendments to the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading set forth in the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). The STB notes that because the amendments were not adopted under an approved collective rate-setting agreement, they are not subject to the reasonableness requirements of the statute, therefore, there was no basis for an investigation. According to the decision, “the STB terminated its approval of the motor carrier rate bureau agreements nearly 10 years ago, and as such, there is no basis for an investigation.” 

On July 14, 2016, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), who publishes the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), issued Supplement 2 to NMF 100-AP, which took effect on August 13, 2016. The Supplement contains changes to the bill of lading forms:

  • the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading, including the Terms and Conditions on the reverse side;

  • the Straight Bill of Lading – Short Form; and

  • the NMFC rules in Item 360 – Bills of Lading, Freight Bills and Statements of Charges.

The current version of the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading, and the Terms and Conditions on the reverse side have been virtually unchanged for the last 19 years.

The changes to the bill of lading were made without notice to the public, nor were shippers given any opportunity to comment, or to protest the changes.

By petition filed on July 29, 2016, the TLC asked the STB to suspend and investigate the proposal of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) to revise the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading. This decision at this point closes the door with the STB to suspend the changes.

TIA has updated its broker-carrier model contract to address these changes, and the updated version should be released within the next few weeks. 

If you have any questions, contact TIA Advocacy (advocacy@tianet.org, 703.299.5700).

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Nomination Hearing for Secretary Chao

January 11, 2017 – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held its nomination hearing for the Honorable Elaine Chao, who if confirmed would serve as the 18th Secretary of Transportation. Secretary Chao outlines her top priorities for the Department. These would include: effectively enforcing safety measures, garnering the most benefits from the Department’s expenditures including strengthening its planning and acquisition practices, and preparing for the future by considering new technologies in our infrastructure. Additionally, Secretary Chao outlines the desire for the Agency to bolster infrastructure to address bottlenecking and congestion and strive towards equality between urban and rural among different modes of transportation.

Secretary Chao received several questions from Members of the Committee on a wide variety of issues including; autonomous vehicles, rail safety and positive train control (PTC), the highway trust fund (HTF), the growing number of regulations being issued by the Department, truck driver shortage, the Jones Act, the Buy America Act, and modernizing the federal permitting process.

This will be the fifth time Secretary Chao will be confirmed, and will likely be the easiest confirmation hearing under the Trump Administration. Once confirmed, TIA looks forward to working with Secretary Chao and her team on making 3PL and broker issues a top priority for the Department moving forward.

If you have any questions, contact TIA Advocacy (advocacy@tianet.org, 703.299.5700).

      

GAO Releases Report Outlining Self-Reporting Safety Benefits

 

December 2, 2016 - The GAO issued a report entitled: “Establishing System for Self-Reporting Equipment Problems Appears Feasible, but Safety Benefits Questionable and Costs Unknown.” Based on a FAST Act requirement that asked the GAO to examine the cost and feasibility of establishing a system for carriers or drivers to self-report vehicles equipment problems to FMCSA. Essentially, it would create a system where if motor carriers and drivers self-report problems within a certain time period, the violation would be excluded from the carrier’s relative safety rating.    

 

Establishing a system that would provide incentives for trucking companies to self-report equipment problems may not necessarily yield safety benefits. Most stakeholders GAO interviewed—including selected carriers and drivers—thought a self-reporting system would be unlikely to produce safety benefits, stating that it would not incentivize quicker repairs. If repairs are not made more quickly, there would be no positive impact on safety. Three drivers, however, thought a self-reporting system could yield some safety benefits if it incentivized drivers to do more thorough inspections of their vehicles. Officials from industry groups and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) noted that a self-reporting system could negatively impact safety, such as by encouraging distracted driving if drivers report equipment problems on their cell phones while driving. Moreover, estimating the potential safety impacts of such a system requires information that is not currently available, such as how equipment problems that would be permitted to be self-reported are related to crashes.

 

FMCSA has the statutory and regulatory authority to establish a system for self-reporting equipment problems, and technology exists to create it, but its costs are unknown. Also, establishing such a system could pose challenges for FMCSA, carriers, and drivers. For example, developing a new system could delay efforts FMCSA has under way to improve its information technology, and carriers or drivers may have difficulty selecting their specific equipment problem from the more than 300 potential vehicle maintenance violations. Further, without information on key design features of a self-reporting system, such as whether reporting would be through a telephone hotline or a web-application, it is not possible to estimate costs with any reasonable degree of confidence. FMCSA developed a rough estimate that a self-reporting system would cost between $5 and $10 million to establish and operate for the first year.

 

If you have any questions, contact Chris Burroughs (burroughs@tianet.org, 703.299.5705).

 



GAO Releases Hazmat Rail Shipments ERG Reports

December 2, 2016 - The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled: “Hazardous Materials Rail Shipments: A Review of Emergency Response Information in Selected Train Documents.” GAO found that to help emergency responders safely handle rail accidents involving hazardous materials, selected railroads transporting hazardous materials typically carry two sources of information:

  1. The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG); and
  2. information in the trains’ documents.

Federal Hazardous Material Regulations require railroads and other hazardous material transporters to carry emergency response information that describes immediate hazards to health and risks of fire or explosion, among other things. Representatives from all 18 railroads GAO interviewed told GAO that they carry the ERG on their trains. According to DOT officials, the ERG’s use is not required by regulation, but the rail industry views it as a national standard for emergency response information. GAO’s review of selected train documents showed that they always have a basic description of each hazardous material being transported, including the identification number and proper shipping name, as well as an emergency response telephone number. Six of the 7 Class I railroads and 5 of the 11 selected Class II and III railroads also included emergency response information in these documents. According to four emergency response associations, in the first 30 minutes after a rail incident, emergency responders primarily use the train documents to locate and identify hazardous materials and use the ERG to identify potential response actions.

GAO found that the emergency-response information in the ERG and the GAO-reviewed train documents of the selected railroads were generally similar, but differed somewhat in the level of specificity and type of information. For the 72 frequently shipped hazardous materials GAO selected, the train documents at times described hazards, mitigation measures, and protective-clothing requirements more specifically than the ERG. The ERG provided more detail on evacuation distances. However, for six selected hazardous materials, the recommended evacuation distances in the ERG differed from the supplemental emergency response information that is provided by the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Database. AAR decided in August 2016 to discontinue the database, removing the potential for discrepancies between the ERG and the supplemental emergency response information from AAR going forward.

In November 2012, a train derailed in Paulsboro, New Jersey, releasing about 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride, a hazardous material. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found, among other issues, that the supplemental information in the train's documents on responding to emergencies involving vinyl chloride was inconsistent with and less protective than emergency response guidance in the ERG. Congress included a provision in the statute for GAO to evaluate the differences between the emergency response information carried by trains transporting hazardous materials and the ERG guidance. This report examines (1) what emergency response information is carried on trains by selected railroads transporting hazardous materials and how responders use it, and (2) how selected railroads' supplemental emergency response information compares to information in the ERG.

GAO reviewed the ERG and other relevant literature and met with DOT and NTSB officials, among others. GAO interviewed all seven larger Class I railroads and eleven smaller Class II and III railroads that carried hazardous materials in 2015. GAO compared the supplemental emergency response information with ERG information for 72 frequently shipped hazardous materials from a nonprobability sample of train documents provided by 10 of the 18 selected railroads.

If you have any questions, contact Chris Burroughs (burroughs@tianet.org, 703.299.5705).

 

 

Election Season Ends, and Work Begins

 

November 16, 2016 - The results of last week’s Presidential election captured the attention of the world.  Donald Trump clinched an electoral college majority by winning states that for years had served as strongholds for the Democratic Party.  At the same time, Democrats made inroads into the Republican Congressional majorities, picking up two seats in the Senate (New Hampshire and Illinois) and six seats in the House of Representatives.  Polls, and statistical models that aggregated those polls to predict the nomination, estimated that Hillary Clinton had a between a 70% and a 90% chance of winning the Presidency going into Tuesday.  As pollsters and campaign experts dig into the hows and whys, the stage is being set for the transition of executive power to the Republican Party on January 20, 2017.

 

President-elect Trump’s transition team will now identify key nominees to serve in his Cabinet and in executive agencies.  While there are about 4,000 politically appointed positions in the federal government, only the top Cabinet and Agency Administrator nominees will likely be named prior to the inauguration.  Shirley Ybarra, former head of the Virginia Department of Transportation, is in charge of the Trump team’s nominee vetting for the Department of Transportation and related agencies.  Overall, about 1,300 presidential nominees are subject to investigative hearings and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

 

The Trump Campaign and his transition team have emphasized that they plan to focus on investing in infrastructure improvements, but there remain many questions about how those improvements will be paid for.  Potential solutions include:

  • Issuing government bonds (the Build America bonds program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was a resounding success for the Obama Administration),
  • Encouraging public-private partnerships (as many state transportation agencies have done for toll roads and other improvements), or
  • Revisiting the fuel tax funding mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund as part of a larger tax reform effort under budget reconciliation rules.

 

The new Administration will also be charged with determining how to proceed with outstanding or recently-completed rulemakings from the Obama Administration.  Rulemakings such as the Electronic Logging Devices Rule at FMCSA, the Safety Fitness Determination Rule at FMCSA, and the new Overtime Rule at the Department of Labor are just a few of the federal rules that have an enormous impact on employers nationwide (and specifically on transportation companies), and which may be revisited by the new Administration.  As the Trump Administration transition team vets and announces nominees, the potential actions on those important rulemakings will be more clear.

 

TIA has been fortunate to enjoy strong support from TIA members for the TIA Political Action Committee (TIAPAC).  The TIAPAC is one of the most important tools available to TIA members to make sure that their voices are heard on Capitol Hill.  Individual, personal donations are used by the TIAPAC to support Congressional candidates that fight on behalf of the third-party logistics industry.  TIA’s government affairs staff is already hard at work meeting new members of Congress and making your industry’s views known on important legislation.  Please contact advocacy@tianet.org to learn more about those issues, or click here to join your fellow industry leaders and support TIAPAC.




TIA Joins National Associations in Supporting Health Care Law Changes

 

October 19, 2016 - This week, TIA joined with other national associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in signing onto a letter to Congress supporting changes to the Affordable Care Act.  At issue is an ACA requirement which would penalize small businesses that provide Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) to their employees to help offset insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses.  As a result of a technical error in the law, small businesses offering HRA benefits could be fined up to $500,000 per year for doing so.

 

TIA cosigned a letter which will be delivered to both House and Senate Leadership at the end of October, and which requests that Congress move quickly to pass bipartisan legislation to correct this error.  Many small business owners want to offer health benefits such as HRAs to their employees because they are a simpler way for businesses that may not have expansive human resource departments or benefit specialists to help employees with rising medical costs.  Legal technicalities should not prevent those small businesses from offering such benefits.  The text of the draft letter is available here.

 

The full text of the letter, which requests passage of the Small Business Health Care Relief Act, is available here at this link.  The bill currently has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.  There are currently 18 sponsors in the Senate, where it has been introduced as S. 3060, and 59 sponsors in the House of Representatives, where it has been introduced as H.R. 5447.  For more information on this legislation, please contact TIA Government Affairs staff at 703-299-5700 or advocacy@tianet.org.






Federal Agencies Releases Phase 2 Truck Emissions Rule 

August 16, 2016 - The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the Phase 2 Truck Emissions Rule.  This rule sets new fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards for heavy-duty trucks for model years 2021 through 2027.  

The Phase 2 program will include technology-advancing standards that will reduce GHG emissions and fuel consumption. The Agencies outlined the following program highlights:

  • Achieves 10 percent more GHG reductions.
  • Has more robust compliance provisions such as more repeatable and accurate test procedures, enhanced enforcement audits, and protection against defective devices.
  • Includes more stringent diesel engine standards, and an improved vocational vehicle program with a regulatory structure that is better tailored to match the right technology for the job.
  • Maintains the structure and incremental phase-in of the earlier proposed standards, allowing manufacturers to choose their own technology mix and giving them the lead time needed to ensure those technologies are reliable and durable.
  • Increases flexibility to minimize impacts on small businesses. 

TIA, along with other industry stakeholders, supports lowering greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and making roads safer.  However, federal agencies continue to propose rules that raise the bar in those areas to levels that cannot be supported based upon engineering costs and market concerns.

To view an Agency-prepared fact sheet, please click HERE. If you have any questions, please contact TIA Advocacy (advocacy@tianet.org, 703.299.5700).     

 



TIA Joins Other Industry Stakeholders in Opposition to EPA Rules 

The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) along with other transportation industry trade groups joined together, in opposition to the joint U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed rule on, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles – Phase 2.”

As part of the Climate Action Plan announced in June 2013, the President directed the EPA and NHTSA to set the next round of standards to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve fuel efficiency for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. More than 70 percent of the oil used in the United States and 28 percent of GHG emissions come from the transportation sector, and since 2009 EPA and NHTSA have worked with industry and states to develop ambitious, flexible standards for both the fuel economy and GHG emissions of light-duty vehicles and the fuel efficiency and GHG emissions of heavy-duty vehicles. 

The Phase-2 standards would build upon on the light-duty vehicle standards spanning model years 2011 to 2025 and on the initial phase standards (Phase-1) for new medium and heavy-duty vehicles and engines in model years 2014 to 2018.  

TIA along with other industry stakeholders are supportive of improving greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air, and safer roads, but the Agency continues to raise the bar to levels that cannot be supported based upon engineering costs, and market concerns. Specifically, the Agencies look to increase engines standards beyond the proposed amounts from 4.2% to 6% for over-the-road segments and from 4.2% to over 9% for vocational vehicles, which would include wide variety of truck and bus types (e.g. delivery, refuse, shuttle bus, school bus, emergency vehicles, and recreational vehicles). 

TIA will continue to monitor the requirements moving forward and weigh-in where necessary to ensure that the transportation market is not negatively impacted. 
If you have any questions, contact Chris Burroughs (burroughs@tianet.org, 703.299.5705). 

 

TIA Member Testifies Before Senate Commerce Committee about Technology


June 28, 2016 - Mr. Jordan Kaas, President of Managed Services for C.H. Robinson Worldwide testified before the United States Senate Commerce, Science, and Justice Committee on behalf of Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) on “How the Internet of Things (IoT) Can Bring the U.S. Transportation and Infrastructure into the 21st Century.” Mr. Kaas began working with C.H. Robinson in 1999.

Mr. Kaas was an exemplary representative of TIA and the 3PL industry. His overarching message was to address that the greatest challenge Congress faces in the development of the “Internet of Things” is to force the U.S. Government to break down silos and work in cross-functional teams, or be left behind for smaller countries and more agile governments to lead the way.

Mr. Kaas touched on four topics of specific interest that Congress must address in order to achieve the goals of removing silos and making the U.S. more enticing for businesses. The four topics were:

  1. Corporate tax rates

  2. World-class U.S. Customs Agency

  3. Increasing resources for cargo theft deterrence

  4. Land use and planning around the rise of megacities

As TIA’s influence on Capitol Hill continues to grow, the 3PL industry will continue to play an integral role in developing legislative policy decisions in order to have our voice heard. TIA is thankful to the Senate Commerce Committee for their invitation to testify at this important oversight hearing and C.H. Robinson for participating and representing our industry.

If you have any questions, contact TIA Advocacy at (advocacy@tianet.org, 703.299.5700).