Today, FMCSA announced its intent to start a new rulemaking to revise its Lease and Interchange of Vehicles: Motor Carriers of Passengers rule issued in May 2015.
This is a major victory for the passenger motorcoach industry, as it confirms FMCSA’s recognition that the final rule was overly burdensome and had an unnecessary negative impact on the motorcoach, tour and travel industry, and would not advance safety.
FMCSA published a final rule on May 27, 2015, on the lease and interchange of passenger vehicles, with the goal of stopping chameleon carriers from continuing to operate. This left the motorcoach industry with an unduly burdensome rule that turned long standing business practices of the both the charter and scheduled service motorcoach operators, on their head. Further, it did not address FMCSA’s objective of stopping “bad actors.” In fact, by definition these bad actors would be excluded from the rule, leading to further “masking” opportunities for bad carriers, as well as driving compliant operators to consider converting their business models to brokerage services (an industry FMCSA has no jurisdiction to regulate).
ABA led an industry-wide effort to stop this rule from going into force. We started more than a year ago, first with leading a petition campaign asking the agency to reconsider the rule. Following the filing of petitions, ABA members and others brought their concerns directly to FMCSA representatives attending ABA’s Bus Industry Safety Council meeting last summer and at various state association meetings throughout last fall. In response to these petitions and outpouring, FMCSA met with various ABA members and others last October to not only explain the rule more fully but also to become more familiar with bus operational realities.
Following the October 2015 meeting, ABA continued to press the agency to reconsider the rule. ABA sent letters to both the FMCSA Administrator and the Secretary of Transportation, and finally went to Capitol Hill for relief. Faced with mounting pressure, last March FMCSA postponed the original compliance date of the rule. However, this was not enough, so ABA sought help from Congress, this effort brought language in the House and Senate FY17 transportation appropriations bill reports directing the agency to modify the rule.
Today’s announcement by FMCSA is the action ABA was seeking to stop the final rule. Now FMCSA can address the concerns of the motorcoach, tour and travel industry raised through the petitions, because it paves the way for key changes to be made to the rule. ABA appreciates FMCSA’s prudent action and willingness to listen to industry’s concerns.
FMCSA’s Announcement in Brief
a. The agency is taking action in response to the numerous petitions it received.
b. It determined amendments to the rule are in order.
c. To advance the new rulemaking effort, the agency will hold a public roundtable discussion.
d. Specifically, the agency will be considering four changes to the rule:
1. excluding “chartering” or “subcontracting” from the leasing definition;
2. changing CMV marking requirements to locate temporary markings;
3. changing the requirement that carriers notify customers within 24 hours to when they subcontract; and
4. expanding the 48-hour delay for preparing a lease to include emergencies when passengers are not aboard a bus.
FMCSA clearly listened to the concerns of industry and is taking action. Now it is our turn to step up and work with the agency to ensure these areas of concern are properly addressed in the new rulemaking effort.
For more information or to read the Federal Register posting, click here, and remain vigilant for future notices regarding this new rulemaking effort.