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America Outdoors Association

September 21, 2009

America Outdoors Association Bulletin

Bills Introduced in Congress Will Require CDL’s for 15 Passenger Vans and Retrofit of Motorcoaches

Bills Introduced in Congress Will Require CDL’s for 15 Passenger Vans and Retrofit of Motorcoaches

H.R. 1396 and a companion bill in the Senate, S. 554, will require all for hire 9-15 passenger van drivers to have Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL).  The bill requires more stringent testing and driver qualifications for CDL’s.  The bills also direct the Secretary of Transportation (DOT) to prescribe regulations requiring motorcoaches to be retrofitted with: (1) safety seat belts at each seating;  (2) improved firefighting equipment; and (3) devices to enhance visibility. The motorcoach requirements specifically exempt school buses, but as the newsletter goes to press we are still researching the degree to which outfitters buses will be impacted. 

Stricter standards and training curriculums for drivers and tougher motor carrier inspections regimes are called for in the legislation.  The Secretary of Transportation will approve all state’s inspection regimes.  New motorcoaches will be required to have advanced glazing in each portal to prevent passenger ejection, enhanced compartmentalization safety countermeasures and other motor vehicle safety features.  Devices to record hours of service would also have to be installed on motorcoaches.  Ironically, the bill exempts government motorcoaches or buses from some of the motorcoach standards, including public transporation, school buses and multi-function school activity buses by eliminating them from the definition  of “motorcoach”.

The bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a qualified motorcoach safety credit to a taxpayer for 10% of the costs of qualified new motorcoaches and for improvements to existing in-service motorcoaches to satisfy new federal safety standards for installation of occupant protection systems. 

The bill requires the Secretary to award supplemental grants (not to exceed $20,000 per vehicle) to motorcoach operators to assist with the cost of retrofitting motorcoaches to comply with such federal standards.

The Small Business Act would also be amended to grant the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) authority to make SBA loans and loan guarantees to small business manufacturers of motorcoaches and small business motorcoach service providers to help retrofit their buses and motorcoaches for occupant protection.

Both bills have been referred to committees in the House and Senate but no action has been taken as of mid-September.  The primary sponsor of the House bill is John Lewis (D-GA).  Cosponsors are Representatives Michael Burgess (R-TX), K. Conway (R-TX), Bob Filner (D-CA), Al Green (D-TX), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Ted Poe (R-TX), and Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-IL.  In the Senate S. 554 was introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-IL) with Senators Boxer (D-CA), Hutchison (R-TX), and Burris (D-IL) cosponsoring.

The DOT is reviewing its motorcoach and 15 passenger van safety regulations.  AOA's Washington representative is following the legislation and the regulations.  Currently, we are working on a strategy to relieve the burden on small businesses whose transportation is an incidental part of their operation.

15 passenger van follow-up

The proposed law requires a commercial driver’s license endorsement for interstate commerce.  Presumably, intrastate travel would be subject to state law except that states can opt to enforce the federal standards.  The exact language in the bill reads:

(b) Modification of Requirements for Commercial Driver's License Passenger-Carrying Endorsement - The Secretary shall establish by regulation a requirement that a driver shall have a commercial driver's license passenger-carrying endorsement in order to operate a commercial motor vehicle and transport not less than 9 and not more than 15 passengers (including a driver) in interstate commerce for compensation.

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