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America Outdoors E-News

September 28, 2007

State DOT's to Begin Charging Registration Fees for Interstate Commerce for Previously Exempted Vehicles H.R. 3058 Marked Up in the House - Funding Still Being Debated

State DOT's to Begin Charging Registration Fees for Interstate Commerce for Previously Exempted Vehicles

State Department of Transportations are notifying outfitters and other previously exempted carriers crossing state lines of new registration fees for their previously exempted vehicles. Lobbying by the trucking industry and loss of revenue from state Department of Transportations led to legislation to bring in previously exempted carriers under a Unified Carrier Registration. Not all states are participating. To see if your state is participating go to www.ucr.in.gov In Colorado the fee to register a vehicle crossing state lines is $231.

Currently, a bill, H.R.3248, making technical corrections to the authorizing legislation which passed in 2005, is under consideration by the Senate after being passed by the House.

The Secretary of Transportation established the initial 15-member Board of Directors by direct appointment due to the imminent sunsetting of SSRS and the potential for significant loss of revenue by the 39 participating States if work is not completed prior to January 1, 2007. The establishment of the Board was announced in the Federal Register on May 12, 2006 (FR Volume 71, Number 92, Page 27777-27779).

Section 4305 of SAFETEA-LU [Pub. L. 109-59, 119 Stat. 1144, August 10, 2005] created, under Title 49 U.S. Code (U.S.C.), a new section 14504a titled "Unified Carrier Registration System Plan and Agreement." Under the UCR Agreement, motor carriers, motor private carriers, brokers, freight forwarders, and leasing companies will provide registration and financial responsibility information and pay certain fees. The Unified Carrier Registration Board of Directors must issue rules and regulations to govern the UCR Agreement. Under the UCR Agreement, the USDOT Number will be the sole Federal identification number for all motor carriers. The UCR Agreement will replace the current SSRS, which will expire on January 1, 2007, in accordance with section 4305(a) of SAFETEA-LU.

SSRS is a State-administered registration program covering for-hire interstate motor carriers. SSRS ensures that all interstate for-hire motor carriers maintain public liability insurance at the appropriate levels and are properly authorized to operate under 49 U.S.C. 13902. A motor carrier must choose a single participating State in which to file its SSRS application. Usually a carrier is able to select the State in which it maintains its principal place of business. However, if that State is not a participating SSRS State, the carrier must select an SSRS-participant State in which it will operate the largest number of commercial motor vehicles in its fleet during the next registration year. Regardless of how the motor carrier makes the selection, the selected State is known as the "base" State and collects fees on behalf of all the participating States in which the motor carrier operates. A Canada- or Mexico-domiciled motor carrier also must select the State in the United States in which it most frequently operates as its base State for registration purposes.

Currently, 39 States participate in SSRS, and they use this registration system to generate revenues to supplement State general fund accounts and to conduct safety-related services. Historically, the for-hire motor carrier industry has complained about the cost of this program. Under section 4305 of SAFETEA-LU, Congress brokered a compromise that lowers the costs of for-hire motor carrier registration under SSRS while keeping the 39 participating States "whole" in terms of the amount of revenue they receive under SSRS. Congress accomplished this by spreading SSRS user fees to include a broader population of registrants and entities currently not required to register. By including private motor carriers, brokers, freight forwarders, leasing companies, and exempt for-hire motor carriers in the UCR Agreement, Congress lowered the registration costs for for-hire motor carriers and ensured that the SSRS States do not lose essential funding for safety services. SAFETEA-LU tasked the Board of Directors with developing an appropriate registration fee structure as well as a distribution formula for fees collected.

Under the law, the Board of Directors shall issue rules and regulations that shall:
(A) prescribe uniform forms and formats, for- (i) the annual submission of the information required by a base State of a motor carrier, motor private carrier, leasing company, broker, or freight forwarder; (ii) the transmission of information by a participating State to the Unified Carrier Registration System; (iii) the payment of excess fees by a State to the designated depository and the distribution of fees by the depository to those States so entitled; and (iv) the providing of notice by a motor carrier, motor private carrier, broker, freight forwarder, or leasing company to the Board of the intent of such entity to change its base State, and the procedures for a State to object to such a change under subparagraph (C);
(B) provide for the administration of the Unified Carrier Registration Agreement, including procedures for amending the Agreement and obtaining clarification of any provision of the Agreement;
(C) provide procedures for dispute resolution under the Agreement that provide due process for all involved parties; and
(D) designate a depository.

The Board also must recommend initial annual fees to be assessed against carriers, leasing companies, brokers, and freight forwarders under the UCR Agreement. The Secretary must set the initial annual fees for the next agreement year and any subsequent adjustment of those fees within 90 days of receiving the Board's recommendation and only after notice and opportunity for public comment.

The initial board members are:

  • David Hugel, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, representing the U.S. Department of Transportation; Anthony Portanova, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, representing the FMCSA Eastern Service Center;
  • Angel Oliver, supervisor of the credentialing unit in the Motor Carrier Division of the Texas Department of Transportation, representing the FMCSA Southern Service Center;
  • Ruth Sluzacek, director of motor carrier services for the Iowa Motor Vehicle Division, Iowa Department of Transportation, representing the FMCSA Midwestern Service Center;
  • Frank Laqua, administrator of motor carrier services for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, representing the FMCSA Western Service Center;
  • Avelino Gutierrez, staff counsel for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission;
  • Barbara Hague, special projects coordinator for Missouri Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Services;
  • Dave Lazarides, director of processing and information for the Illinois Commerce Commission's Transportation Bureau and program manager of the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Network for the State of Illinois;
  • William Leonard, director of the Freight Compliance and Safety Bureau for the New York Department of Transportation;
  • Terry Willert, chief of the transportation section for the Colorado Public Utility Commission;
  • Robert Pitcher, American Trucking Association's vice president, state laws division;
  • Rick Craig, treasurer and director of regulatory affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and executive director of the OOIDA Foundation;
  • Robert Voltmann, president and chief executive officer of the Transportation Intermediaries Association;
  • Richard Schweitzer, general counsel of the National Private Truck Council;
  • Craig Sharkey, associate general counsel for Wal-Mart's Logistics Division.

For more information, visit http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 24555.

H.R. 3058 Marked Up in the House
Funding Still Being Debated

On September 26, the House Natural Resources Committee reported a substitute version of Rep. Peter DeFazio's (D-OR) Rural Schools funding bill formally titled the "Public Land Communities Transition Act of 2007" (H.R. 3058). The bill provides funds to counties in which there are national forests and special transition payments to counties in some states. Originally, the bill sought $4 billion in funding over five years with fees to come from "commercial activities" in national forests. But this language was a placeholder, according to committee staff, until other sources of funding could be worked out, a process that is not yet complete. We had previously informed the Committee of our objections to the open-ended funding provisions of the bill as introduced.

The measure is touted as a "transition" act which provides for declining amounts of funding via the Rural Schools program while increasing the amount of funding to states and local governments under the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. After four years, the bill seeks to effectively guarantee PILT payments at 100% levels with money coming from "any other funds in the U.S. Treasury not otherwise appropriated and without further appropriation" (Sec. 2), although there are not many unappropriated, unearmarked funds in the Treasury.

The reported bill provides for Rural Schools funding of $520 million in fiscal year 2008 (that begins on Oct. 1) and $468 million annually for fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011 - a total of over $1.9 billion.

Section 3(a) of the substitute includes the same "Source of Payment Amounts" regarding these funds. Specifically the sources are (1) appropriated dollars, (2) any unappropriated dollars in the Treasury, and (3) "any revenues, fees, penalties, or miscellaneous receipts, exclusive of deposits to any relevant trust fund, special account, or permanent operating funds, received by the Federal Government from activities by the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service on the applicable Federal land." This language continues to put pressure on these two agencies to generate more revenues from fees to make these payments.

The Committee added a new provision to the bill that is supposed to be the apparent primary source of revenue for the payments. Section 5 in the introduced version mandated new fees on "any commercial lease or activity" and set a revenue target of $4.025 billion over a five year period. The new section 5, "Conservation of Resources Fees", mandates new fees on oil and gas production from Federal leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The provision also targets certain oil and gas royalties. These fees and royalties have already been "used" three or four times already this year as the offsets for other new spending initiatives.

It is expected that the funding sources described in the marked-up bill, which is a required offset for any new spending, are placeholders. Senator Baucus and Representative Rangel are reportedly working on a tax increase to fund this and other legislation and will combine several bills into a larger package.

AO will be monitoring prospective floor action on this bill and working with sponsors and others to prevent this bill from authorizing fee increases on guides and outfitters. At the same time, we will step up our efforts to inform key Senators of these same concerns and try to ensure that no bill is enacted that will result in fee increases on our members.

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