The New Congress—a Broker's Friend?

The 2014 elections will bring some major changes to the makeup of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives when the 114th Congress convenes in January.

Will the change in leadership be better or worse for brokers? I posed that question to Chris Burroughs, senior government affairs manager for the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA).

Burroughs believes that the new Congress will be generally favorable to brokers and 3PLs. Traditionally, Republicans have taken a pro-business stand, opposing burdensome regulations, Burroughs said. Additionally, with both the House and Senate controlled by the same party, it may be easier to move legislation forward.

As the majority party, Republicans will now lead—and set the agenda for—the two Senate committees that deal with transportation: the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Here’s as an update on trucking industry regulations that Congress is likely to address in 2015.

Roll back Hours of Service – The HOS battle came to a head last week, when the House and Senate passed a $1 trillion spending bill that will fund the government until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2015. Included in that bill is a suspension of two HOS provisions for one year, calling for the DOT to conduct further studies. Most trucking industry groups support the suspension, but Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and a number of highway safety groups urged Congress not to suspend the rules. New HOS rules that took effect in 2013 were estimated to reduce carrier productivity by 3 to 5 percent.

Hiring motor carriersNational standard for hiring motor carriers – House Bill 4727, introduced in May, would standardize best practices for hiring safe motor carriers, to clarify aspects of BASIC data that relate to negligent selection of a carrier. Burroughs said that this legislation is more likely to move forward in 2015. TIA is hoping that the national standard will become part of a multi-year transportation bill when the current bill expires in May.

Long-term highway funding uncertain – Although the Republican Party will control both houses of Congress, disagreements remain within the party. When the new Congress convenes in January, conflicts may emerge over the amount and sources of funding for infrastructure improvements, for example. Congress passed a short-term patch to the Highway Trust Fund last summer, to maintain highways through May 31, 2015. The trucking industry has pushed for a long-term solution, but it’s unclear whether Congress will pass a comprehensive bill.

Changes to carrier safety ratings – The Carrier Safety Fitness Determination rule would replace existing safety ratings with a new rating that links CSA BASIC scores, investigations, and roadside safety data. According to Burroughs, this rule would benefit brokers because it would ultimately eliminate CSA BASIC scores from being manipulated by plaintiffs’ attorneys. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is scheduled for publication by the FMCSA on April 2, 2015, followed by a 90-day comment period. A final rulemaking would come after the FMCSA reviews those comments.

Carrier insuranceIncreased insurance for carriers in the works – In November, the FMCSA published an Advance Notice of Rulemaking to increase the amount of insurance required by carriers. Although the notice does not provide a specific dollar figure amount, any significant increase in insurance costs could drive some small trucking companies and owner-operators out of business, further reducing capacity. After a 90-day comment period, the FMCSA will issue a Notice of Rulemaking which most likely will specify a new minimum for carrier insurance. FMCSA will issue its Final Rulemaking sometime in May or June, after another comment period. (See our blog post 5 Ways a New Carrier Insurance Law Could Affect Brokers.)

For more information on these and other issues, see TIA’s Key Issues page. Many of these issues affect capacity, and DAT offers a number of tools that can help brokers gain capacity. See which one can help you by visiting our Broker Tools page.