NTTC Legislative & Regulatory Priority Issues In the 116th Congress

 In December 2018, the National Tank Truck Carriers, Inc.’s Executive Committee approved a list of priority issues for the 116th Congress.  As we work with Congress, relevant agencies, and other stakeholders in highway safety, NTTC supports the following legislative and regulatory improvements:

  • Increase and index the Federal Fuel Tax for rising costs;
  • Repeal the Federal Excise Tax on heavy-duty tractors and trailers;
  • Adopt a 10% axle-weight tolerance for dry bulk shipments;
  • Requiring intrastate hazardous materials carriers to obtain USDOT numbers as part of their hazardous materials registration with PHMSA;
  • Allow electronic shipping papers for hazardous materials shipments;
  • Allow trucks transporting petroleum-based fuel and petroleum/ethanol mixtures to placard as if transporting any other petroleum-based or petroleum/ethanol mixture with an equal or lower flashpoint; and
  • Reform hazardous materials truck requirements at highway-rail grade crossings.


Fuel Tax Increase (Statutory)

Both the Trump Administration and the Democrats have expressed a desire to increase the fuel tax that supports the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).  The fuel tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon for unleaded fuel and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel since 1993.  Increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and a static tax rate have resulted in highway construction shortfalls.  Most years the HTF runs out of funds by August and this trend is set to accelerate.  NTTC recommends a fuel tax increase of at least 10 cents per gallon and the double indexing of the fuel tax to consumer price inflation (CPI) and changes to vehicle efficiency.  CPI indexing will render the fuel tax inflation-proof.  Indexing to changes in average vehicle fuel economy will ensure that sufficient revenues are collected to mitigate petroleum vehicles’ increasing fuel efficiency and account for the growth of vehicles powered by fuels other than gasoline.  A double index will give Congress sufficient time to properly plan for funding the roads over the long-term, when these changing trends will have real effects on HTF revenues. 

 

Federal Excise Tax Repeal (Statutory)

            The Federal Excise Tax (FET) was initially adopted to help pay for World War I.  America recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of our victory in World War I, shedding light on how the tax has outlived its original purpose.  This 10% equipment tax extends to both tractor and trailer sales.  The tank truck sector is particularly damaged by this requirement.  New tank trailers cost between $100,000 and $1,000,000.  Our vehicles transport some of the most essential goods in the American economy: gasoline to power passenger vehicles, chemicals essential in numerous consumer products, and foodstuffs.  Adding at least $10,000 to the cost of a trailer disincentivizes purchasing new equipment and modernizing fleets, contributing to higher emissions.

 

 

10% Dry Bulk Axle-Weight Tolerance (Statutory)

            The physics of transporting a load of plastic pellets or other dry bulk goods force the cargo to collect at the front of the tank trailer, disproportionately weighing down the axles on that part of the vehicle.  These loads are generally blown into a trailer from the rear, so installing multiple compartments would require comprehensive renovations at the facilities that load these cargoes.  Consequently, NTTC supports adopting a 10% tolerance on the maximum weight per vehicle axle (plus or minus 3,400 lbs. on most vehicles).  By retaining the current statutory maximum total weight while providing some axle-weight flexibility, these trucks can continue to operate safely without fear of punitive measures for increased axle-weights that cause little road damage.  By maintaining current maximum vehicle weights and the current bridge formula, roadway impacts are minimized.

 

Requiring Intrastate Hazardous Materials
Carriers to Obtain USDOT Numbers (Regulatory or Statutory)

            Intrastate hazardous materials carriers are not subject to the rigorous oversight placed on interstate hazardous materials carriers.  33 states require all their intrastate carriers to obtain USDOT Numbers as part of the state registration process.  But, intrastate hazardous materials carriers operating in the 17 states that do not require their intrastate motor carriers to obtain USDOT Numbers can operate with minimal oversight.  By requiring all motor carriers to provide a USDOT Number when registering with PHMSA, intrastate hazardous materials carriers from those 17 states will be able to be tracked by PHMSA, FMCSA, and their state enforcement agencies.  Further, assigning USDOT numbers will place these carriers within the CSA inspection priority system.  It will also provide a method for PHMSA to identify all motor carriers in its future SMS that is compatible with the FMCSA SMS system: CSA.

 

Electronic Shipping Papers (Regulatory or Statutory)

            The Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Act of 2012 directed the EPA to develop a system to accept and track electronic manifests of hazardous waste by generators, transporters, and storage facilities.  That electronic tracking system went live in 2018.  PHMSA has since updated the Hazardous Materials Regulations to allow the hazardous waste information normally required on hazmat shipping papers to be contained only in an accompanying electronic waste manifest.  Additionally, in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, Congress directed PHMSA to research the viability of electronic shipping papers for hazardous materials shipments.  Pilot projects have demonstrated that such a system is feasible and electronic shipping papers already exist in the rail mode via EDI.  The main challenge remains communicating the emergency response information with first responders that must contend with hazmat releases. 

 

Petroleum Fuel Placarding Requirement Reform (Regulatory or Statutory)

            Historically, trucks transporting petroleum-based fuels were allowed to placard as if carrying any other petroleum-based product that had an equal or lower flash point.  This was because the emergency response for all these products is identical.  The ethanol mandate and increasing prevalence of petroleum/alcohol mixture fuels changed that.  Foams that extinguish petroleum-based fires are ineffective against petroleum/alcohol mixture-based fires.  However, the foams that function against petroleum/alcohol mixture-based fires are effective against petroleum-based fires as well.  Congress should adopt a single emergency response requirement mandating foams that cover both types of fires.  Previous legislation and NTTC efforts attempted to move the agency forward on this issue, but PHMSA moved solving it to a long-term action on their most recent regulatory agenda. 

 

Hazardous Materials Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Reform (Regulatory)

            Presently, all trucks laden with hazardous materials are required to come to a full stop at highway-rail grade crossings.  The Interstate Commerce Commission adopted this requirement almost 100 years ago as part of its general safety authority.  Congress has never directly instructed any agency at the Department of Transportation to adopt this requirement.  While such a rule might have made sense a century ago, today other vehicles regularly rear-end hazardous materials vehicles that are stopped at grade crossings.  This happens far more often than truck & train collisions and likely contributes to more deaths and injuries than would occur absent the rule.

 


For more information on any of these or other topics, please contact: dfurth@tanktruck.org or call 703-838-1960