Legislative and Policy Priorities
ABA is continually engaged on issues pending in Congress that affect the motorcoach, tour and travel industry.
Every day at many rail stations, multimodal facilities and park and ride lots around this country motorcoaches provide intercity, airport shuttle, rail connections and commuter service. Bus service provides an essential ground transportation link, while also alleviating congestion and pollution on our nation’s surface transportation network. Even though these services are provided with almost no federal subsidy, motorcoach transportation continues to be treated as a second class mode or nonexistent in federal, state and local transportation planning.
Highway Trust Fund (HTF) spending outpaced the level of fuel tax revenues that support highway and transit infrastructure in 2009. Since 2009 the HTF has been augmented through a series of general fund transfers and protracted pay-for cycles. In the 113th Congress legislators will look to sustain the HTF as a long term funding mechanism through increased taxation and or new user fees.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted sweeping changes to the driver’s hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for truck operations. With the imposition of a compliance date on 7/1/2013 the Agency has begun to study the current motorcoach hours of service for potential regulatory action.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) precludes mandatory overtime pay for any employee with respect to whom the U.S Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service (HOS). Our coalition believes this rule was established as a way to keep the traveling public safe by preventing violations of the driver hours of service regulations in order to seek overtime compensation. While this protection has been in place for more than 50 years, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and their allies in Congress are seeking to remove motorcoach drivers from this exemption.
Every day thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of employees work in concert to provide nearly 2 million passenger trips by motorcoach. While our industry has one of the best safety records of any transportation mode the lack of consistent national, federal inspection and enforcement means that not all bus operators are compliant with basic federal safety regulations. The failure of federal agencies to enact a comprehensive national inspection structure is not a failure of regulation but a failure of prioritization and enforcement.
In many cases United States ports of entry disenfranchise motorcoaches, drivers and passengers in ways that are disproportionate and inequitable in relation to other modes of transportation. Border crossings at both borders yield examples of delays of up to 15 hours for motorcoach passengers, while domestic ports of entry require varying security credentials which create inordinate investments of time and money by bus operators and drivers.
Since the horrific events of September 11, 2001 and the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 security of public transportation systems continues to be a national concern. In 2012 the federal government spent over $1.5 billion to train, prepare and support private and public sector frontline responders and staff. However, not one new federal dollar was expended to protect Americans traveling on the nearly 700 million passenger trips provided by the private intercity bus fleet.
The compounded costs of federal mandates from 2000 – 2010 and the estimated implementation costs of MAP-21 will increase the purchase price of a motorcoach by as much as 60%. The unprecedented increase in capital costs not only shutters companies, ends jobs and impacts local tourism markets it also increases the age of the fleet and slows the integration of safety technology into operations.
Private intercity bus operators are encountering increased illegal competition from federally subsidized local transit agencies. Congressional mandated Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations prevent transit agencies from accepting federal subsidy and providing charter or scheduled intercity bus service. Despite the prohibition some local transit agencies offer these services in direct violation of federal law.