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Senate Transportation Committee Approves Motorcoach Bill with Modified

Senate Transportation Committee Approves Motorcoach Bill with Modified CDL Language

On May 4th the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation approved an amended version of S. 453, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011. As introduced, this legislation focused primarily on improving motorcoach safety. However, one provision of the bill would have required the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue regulations requiring drivers of 9 to 15 passenger vans operated in interstate commerce to have new, more stringent commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). In response to concerns raised by America Outdoors Association, lodging operators, and others, the version of the legislation approved by the Committee included a compromise provision that, instead, would require DOT to submit a plan to Congress for requiring that “all or certain classes of drivers” have a CDL in order to operate a 9 to 15 passenger van in interstate commerce.

AOA and others believe that the substitute provision continues to present significant problems for our industry. As Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar remarked in stating her concerns with this provision at the mark-up, “the revised language could cause serious problems for lodge operators, [and] outfitters and guides who operate these vehicles in largely rural areas.” Outfitters and guides, many of whom are small businesses operating in rural areas on a seasonal basis, simply will not be able to find a sufficient number of qualified local drivers with CDLs to meet their driving needs.

Senator Klobuchar was recognized by Chairman Rockefeller and made a lengthy statement against the CDL requirement. She noted that there will be further work on the provision before the bill goes to the Senate floor. Her remarks can be viewed on the Committee webcast and begin at the 34 minute mark. http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&ContentRecord_id=8751256b-3a11-411e-8b1b-36184101c699 As Senator Klobuchar stated, “because these drivers are seasonal, they almost certainly wouldn’t spend the time or money to obtain a CDL and it would force these small business owners to either drop the service entirely or go elsewhere to attract drivers with CDLs, which would be costly.”

Senator Boozman’s office contacted AOA President Mike Mills to indicate that several offices had raised concerns about the provision and that it will be address before the bill goes to the Senate floor.

The House version of the bill, H.R. 873, does not contain the 9-15 passenger van CDL provision and Representatives, including the Chairman of Highways and Transit John Duncan, have indicated opposition to the CDL requirement. AOA will continue to work to defeat this provision as the legislative process moves forward. AOA continues to encourage our members to contact their legislative representatives to ensure that they hear our continuing concerns about this important issue.

In May 2010 the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report on van fatalities found a significant decline from 127 in 2003 to 69 in 2007. 80% of those killed were not wearing seat belts. Manufacturers have made 9 to 15 passenger vans safer by installing advanced air bags and electronic stability control since 2007.

The revision to S. 453 states:

(b) REPORT ON DRIVER'S LICENSE REQUIREMENTS FOR 9-TO-15 PASSENGER VANS. Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit a plan to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives for requiring that all or certain classes of drivers-

(1) have a commercial driver's license passenger-carrying endorsement in order to operate a commercial motor vehicle (as defined in section 7 31301(4) of title 49, United States Code) and transport not less than 9 and not more than 15 passengers (including a driver) in interstate commerce; and

(2) be tested in accordance with a drug and alcohol testing program under part 40 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations

This is more than a report. It is authorization to require CDL’s for all 9 to 15 passenger used for interstate commerce.
Many states automatically adopt the federal standards for intrastate commerce as well. Click here for sample of a letter you should FAX to YOUR SENATORS today. If you cannot fax a letter, call their offices and tell them that you oppose the regulatory requirements in S. 453 for 9 to 15 passenger vans FOR THE OUTFITTING INDUSTRY. TELL THEM WE HAVE A GOOD SAFETY RECORD. Get fax and phone numbers for members of Congress from Congress.org See the Members of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

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