Chris on the Hill: CSA Policy Rider

By Chris Burroughs, Vice President of Government Affairs 

The United States Congress is in the midst of their August congressional recess where Members of Congress travel back to their home states and congressional districts to meet with constituents and hear what the most important issues are, to hopefully garner support for their reelection. Back here in our nation’s Capital, it feels like the proverbial calm before the storm.

There are only ten weeks left in the 2019 congressional calendar the congressional calendar for when Members of Congress are in session. What does this mean for legislating in the remaining months of 2019? It’s not good, if Congress has any desire to move forward on any of its top priorities, they better get those done before the end of the year, because not a lot gets done in an election year.

One of those priorities for the House and the Senate is passing appropriations bills to fund our federal government and other necessary projects throughout this great nation. Prior to the August recess, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was able to reach a deal with the Trump Administration and Republican congressional leaders, that will raise federal spending by $320 billion over existing budget caps and allow the government to keep borrowing. Additionally, the deal would stop a potential debt default this fall and avoid automatic spending cuts next year. Now that the budget deal has been addressed, the House and Senate will look to put the pedal to the metal and start moving appropriations bills through their respective chambers as soon as they return in September.

TIA pays very close attention to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development or THUD appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Transportation and the subsequent agencies under its authority. The House THUD bill included many “policy riders” that are policy issues rather than a spending item, but never-the-less industry stakeholders have gotten creative over the years to include these on spending bills to move a policy issue forward or stop it in its tracks. One issue we strongly oppose is Section 134 of the House bill that would immediately bring CSA scores and alerts back to the public view, without waiting for the CSA reform language promulgated in the FAST Act.

This dangerous policy rider would be a step backwards for safety, rolling back the important legislative reforms in the FAST Act to repair the flawed CSA scoring system—a system that both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found to be unsound, using incomplete and unreliable data to develop motor carrier safety scores. The FAST Act directed a full diagnostics and reboot of the CSA system, yet, this provision would disregard that legislative directive, as well as the ongoing work at DOT to improve CSA, instead returning CSA to a system of inaccurate scores. Section 134 would disregard the important ongoing work at DOT to improve the CSA program to the detriment of highway safety.

You might be asking how did something like this get included? Well, from our discussions with key staff on the House, they were falsely led on the status of the FAST Act reform language and were told it was done and completed. A simple Google search would have informed them that was not the case. Never-the-less it reminds me of one of my favorite movies Snow White where the evil witch brings Snow White a beautiful apple, which is nothing more than a poison pill.

We are working hard in the Senate to ensure that this language never sees the light of day and that Congressional leaders abide by the budget deal agreement which stipulates not to include controversial policy riders in future spending bills.

TIA was also joined by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) in sending a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee in opposition to the policy rider. To view the letter, please click HERE.

To learn more about TIA’s advocacy efforts and get involved on a Committee, please inquiry HERE.

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