It’s back! Likely the most important bus and motorcoach legislation in a decade, “Buses United for Safety, Regulatory Reform, and Enhanced Growth for the 21st Century Act” or BUSREG-21, debuted at UMA Motorcoach EXPO in Nashville last month. Introduced by Rep. Scott Perry, (R-Pa.), H.R. 5462 directs the Secretary of Transportation to take multiple actions addressing issues affecting motorcoach and school bus operators.
Much of the bill is designed to reform the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and how it interacts with the bus and motorcoach industry, beginning with amending the agency’s mission statement. The bill’s new language adds “while fostering new and expanding passenger service through industry collaboration, encouraging new entrant applicants by expediting operating authorizations, and identifying passenger carrier drivers as a profession.”
In an effort to expedite new entrant applications and once again see the industry begin to expand, the bill directs FMCSA to either approve new entrant applications in fourteen days or provide the applicant, in writing, a specific valid reason for withholding approval of the application. Not long ago, FMCSA was taking four to six months—and in some instances, up to one year—before approving new entrant applications.
BUSREGS-21 directs FMCSA to continue assigning “Satisfactory” and “Conditional” ratings. Consumers of charter buses have come to depend on these ratings, and the agency has proposed to eliminate all ratings except “unfit.”
The bill instructs a procedure to address passenger carriers that score “Unsatisfactory.”
Rules exemptions and rescission for motor carriers of passengers
The bill states that Congress finds that obstructive sleep apnea is adequately addressed under the current medical standards for commercial motor vehicle drivers and instructs the Secretary of Transportation to exempt commercial motor vehicle drivers of motor carriers of passengers and private school bus carriers from any requirements from rulemaking pertaining to obstructive sleep apnea.
The bill directs the Secretary to exempt motor carriers of passengers and private school bus carriers from any requirements resulting from the advance notice of proposed rulemaking of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration relating to “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Speed Limiting Devices.”
Perhaps one of the most important tenets of H.R. 5462 is the restriction prohibiting the Secretary of Transportation from increasing the financial responsibility (insurance) limits for passenger carriers, restricting any increases to Congress.
The bill limits the authority of FMCSA regarding several items concerning the passenger carrier industry that include:
- Beyond compliance – exempts passenger carriers
- Corrective action plans – directs a process for expediting approval or denial without excessive delays
- Civil penalties – permits installment payments without jeopardizing appeals
- Modernization of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations by eliminating dated and ineffective regulations
- Separate financial impact analysis for rulemaking pertaining to passenger carriers
- Analysis of new regulations affecting passenger carriers in past decades
- Pilot program for passenger carrier facility inspections
Expanded business opportunities
BUSREGS-21 also creates several business opportunities by providing financial incentives for public transit to contact with private sector companies for commuter services and capital cost of contracting.
The bill also compels that public transit report when a private sector bus and motorcoach company is displaced from providing service through public transit expansion.
The original BUSREGS-21 provided a blueprint for Congress and the new Trump Administration. Much of the content of the bill was adopted by the Administration and effected by Secretary Elaine Chao, including a final rule that “regulates the regulators.”
H.R. 5462 BUSREGS-21 is designed to codify those changes and create a favorable environment for the bus and motorcoach industry to expand and thrive.
Look for the bill to serve as the centerpiece of this year’s Bus and Motorcoach Industry Fly-in, April 28-29.
Considering the success and acceptance of the first BUSREGS-21 and the energy surrounding H.R. 5462, this bill gets the big green light.