President Obama Signs $305B FAST Act Highway Bill

by | Nov 8, 2015

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a five year, long-term bill that is slated to be the last highway bill, has just been signed into law by President Obama only hours away from the scheduled expiration of the nation’s road and transit spending. This new law, which will be paid for with tax revenue and approximately $70 billion in offsets of the federal budget, will call for spending $48 billion on transit projects and another $205 billion on highways over the course of the next five years. This is the first time since 2005 that Congress has approved a transportation funding bill lasting longer than two years.

What Changes Will the New Law Make?

Approval of the bill has resulted in the following changes:

  1. Commercial truck & bus driver drug testing reform. Motor carriers will be allowed to change how their drivers are tested for drugs. Under section 382.301 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Safety Regulations, urine is used to test for drugs, but there is currently no standard published by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for hair testing. The DHHS will be required to produce new guidelines within 12 months.
  2. CSA system changes. The Safety Measurement System (SMS), which provides data regarding the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to the public, will no longer be available for public viewing. Passage of the bill would require the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the FMCSA to work together to identify the failings of the ranking system and resolve them before making them available again to the public.
  3. Changes to the FMCSA rulemaking process. The new highway bill would require the FMCSA to include a “regulatory impact analysis” for all new rules, meaning that the FMCSA must examine how the new rules affect different sizes and types of carriers. This analysis must be completed together with commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators and/or motor carrier representatives who may be impacted by the rule change.
  4. Required liability insurance increase study. The FMCSA will be required to conduct a study of carrier liability insurance mediums, which must be completed before implementing a new rule to raise them. Currently, the minimum insurance required for general freight haulers is $750,000.
  5. Military service veterans entry into the trucking industry. The bill would allow former military personnel with experience handling machinery comparable to a bus or heavy truck to use their experience toward obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License. Military driving experience would count toward skills and driving tests, making it easier for veterans to access a civilian CDL truck operator job. Additionally, instead of having to obtain medical certificates from the FMCSA’s National Registry of Medical Examiners, they could instead obtain them from Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors.

In addition to changes made in the trucking industry, the legislation allots $835 million in annual funding for improving biking and pedestrian infrastructure over the next two years. The funding will increase to $850 annually for the next three years. The FAST Act Read more about this new law online via The Hill.

This Legislation effects the safety of our roadways for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. While there are many of the aspects of the law that we do not approve of (removal of safety data from public viewing, and the requirement of extra hurdles before minimum insurance rates can be raised), it does in some respects make our roadways safer. Despite this law, the threat of negligence still exists. That’s why our Washington, DC personal injury and trucking lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. are always available to help victims and families who suffer losses in preventable accidents. If you have questions about your case and rights, contact us for a free case review.

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