Commerce Committee Transportation Reforms Approved in Multi-Year Bill

July 30, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement on Senate passage of the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, which includes significant safety and regulatory reforms put forward by the committee. The bill passed by a vote of 65-34.

“Today, the Senate passed the bipartisan DRIVE Act, which provides much-needed funding and reforms to address key infrastructure needs and improves safety across the country. This multi-year, bipartisan legislation will give states and local governments the ability to plan for and construct critical infrastructure projects. It will also help strengthen our nation’s transportation system by increasing transparency in the allocation of transportation dollars, streamlining the permitting and environmental review processes, and cutting red tape.

“This legislation includes important bipartisan contributions from the Commerce Committee, including a passenger rail reform bill, the development of a comprehensive strategy for transporting freight, transparency enhancements, and a mandate for agencies to implement critical reforms that will help them better protect the traveling public. I especially appreciate the efforts of the Commerce Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Bill Nelson. Even while recovering from surgery, Sen. Nelson worked to advance our important contributions to the Senate floor and facilitated changes that allowed the DRIVE Act to pass with strong bipartisan support. I look forward to working with the House of Representatives as it completes its work in the months ahead.”

Key Commerce Committee Provisions in the DRIVE Act:

Auto Safety Enhancements – Key reforms focus on fixing both systemic problems at the federal government’s troubled auto safety regulator by requiring the Secretary of Transportation to certify that fundamental reforms have occurred before any additional funding is authorized and providing new targeted authorities to protect the traveling public, increase consumer awareness, and hold the auto industry accountable for safety violations.

  • Updates and reforms the manner in which consumers are informed of open recalls, including during vehicle maintenance, and prohibits car rentals that are subject to recalls.
  • Provides consumers with more information about advanced safety technologies included in cars and trucks (blind spot detection, active braking, lane departure warning) to help reduce the overall number of automobile accidents and injuries.
  • Triples the maximum civil penalties for auto manufacturers who violate vehicle safety standards.

Railroad Reforms – The bill reauthorizes Amtrak and provides important reforms to improve infrastructure and implement safety improvements. The Senate bill includes the first ever dedicated funding stream to assist commuter railroads with implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) safety technology while granting the Secretary of Transportation authority to accept or reject plans to avoid service disruptions while ensuring that the technology’s safety benefits are realized as quickly as possible.

Reforming Grants and Project Permitting – Provides additional authority to streamline the delivery of infrastructure projects, consolidates state trucking enforcement grants to provide additional flexibility to states, and helps each state address unique safety and multimodal challenges for highways, railroads, ports, airports, and pipelines.

Consolidated Freight Program – Develops a comprehensive strategy for freight planning to enhance economic competitiveness by reducing the time and cost needed to move freight.  Provides grant and formula funding for large freight-related projects.

Port Performance – Creates transparency enhancements for U.S. port operations by providing currently nonexistent key metrics on port operations to help provide earlier warning of disruptions to various sectors of our economy following the recent nine month labor dispute at 29 West Coast container ports.

An extended overview of Commerce Committee provisions in the DRIVE Act can be found HERE.

The full text of the DRIVE Act is available HERE.

Over the past week, Sen. Thune spoke on the Senate floor on the following DRIVE Act topics:

·        DRIVE Act enhances safety
·        Rail provisions and infrastructure improvements in the DRIVE Act
·        Case for a multi-year transportation bill
·        Bipartisan freight provisions in the DRIVE Act