This story appears in the June 13 print edition of Transport Topics.
WASHINGTON — It will be about two years before Compliance, Safety, Accountability scores will be available again for public view, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.
“Based on our preliminary assessment, it’s going to take a while to do revised analysis,” Foxx told Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) on June 8. The controversial scores were removed from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website last year, pending a congressionally mandated revamp.
Foxx said FMCSA is proceeding with reforming CSA, leaving him to believe that it could take about two years for the program’s scores to be reposted. Federal regulators sought the expertise of the National Academy of Sciences for the review earlier this year.
The five-year, $305 billion FAST Act signed by President Obama in December mandated that FMCSA overhaul the program to ensure it was a reliable safety indicator.
In a related move, the House could take up as early as this week a fiscal 2017 funding bill that would stop FMCSA from advancing a safety fitness determination rule until the CSA reforms are finalized.
Senators and House members have called on FMCSA to stop pursuing the proposal until the reforms are done. It would use data from agency and roadside inspections and investigations for the purpose of evaluating monthly if carriers are fit to operate.
Aside from the CSA update, Foxx told senators a freight-grant program the FAST Act established had gained overwhelming support from stakeholders.
The FASTLANE program had received 212 applications from state and local agencies, seeking nearly $9.8 billion in federal aid. DOT has $759 million available this year.
“This huge wave of interest in the first year of this program, with states and localities requesting over 13 times more funding than available, underscores the continuing need for infrastructure across the nation,” the secretary said, while stressing the growing needs to accommodate freight demand in the coming decades.
A DOT study released last year determined the country’s freight volume would increase by 45% by 2040.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) authored the majority of the trucking and freight provisions in the FAST Act. A member of the Commerce panel, she said Foxx’s reassurances about the CSA and FASTLANE programs were necessary steps for enhancing freight mobility.
“This law will improve the safety of roads in Nebraska and provide certainty for states and local communities as they plan long-term construction projects. I look forward to working with Secretary Foxx to strengthen our nation’s transportation system and ensure the new policies enacted by this law are being carried out efficiently,” Fischer said after the hearing.
As required by the FAST Act, DOT is streamlining provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, pertaining to the progression of highway construction projects.
Foxx reassured senators DOT is eliminating the duplication of environmental reviews and engaging state agencies in the review process.
Separately, the Federal Highway Administration recently proposed a rule that would allow some bridge and road maintenance to receive “categorical exclusions” from environmental review requirements. Foxx said he expects the rule will also be finalized before the end of the year.
“The department has been a leader in reducing the bureaucratic red tape that can stall and delay critical transportation projects from moving forward,” he said.