Thune Sets Mark-Up of Transportation Bill with Regulatory and Consumer Protection Reforms

Sens. Fischer and Moran Join Thune in Introduction of Bill that Includes Passenger Rail, NHTSA Accountability provisions, Grant Reform and Consolidation, and Transparency Improvements

July 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced the committee will convene on Wednesday, July 15 to consider and vote on S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015. The legislation, sponsored jointly by Thune, Surface Subcommittee chairman Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Consumer Protection Subcommittee chairman Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), authorizes the office of the Secretary of Transportation for the next six years (Fiscal Years 2016 through 2021) and contains key reforms to enhance safety, streamline grant programs, and improve the accountability and efficiency of oversight efforts.

“As the Senate works to consider a multi-year plan to fund highway and other infrastructure projects, we also have the opportunity to enact reforms for the Department of Transportation that are vital for our economy and the safety of travelers,” said Thune. “There have been significant management failures at the agency responsible for vehicle recalls linked to fatalities and clear problems in rail safety that contributed to the Amtrak 188 tragedy. This is our opportunity to address failures and make agencies more responsive to commonsense public needs and more accountable to taxpayers. This bill incorporates numerous proposals from the Administration, bipartisan proposals put forward by Senators, and proposals that have been previously considered and embraced by a consensus of the committee.”
By tradition, following committee approval, S. 1732 will be combined with S. 1647, the DRIVE Act, and component legislation from other Senate committees on the Senate floor to form legislation commonly referred to as “The Highway Bill” or the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill.”

Mark-up agenda:

  1. S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
Executive Session Details:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10:00 a.m. in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253

A live video of the markup and additional information will be available at

Highlights of S. 1732:

Improved Project Delivery and Department of Transportation (DOT) Management

Project Streamlining - Building on the Administration’s proposed GROW AMERICA Act, the bill provides additional authority to streamline delivery of infrastructure projects and consolidate burdensome permitting regulations.

Responsible Management -
Prohibits designating a single individual as a long term agency head without formally nominating a qualified candidate who is subject to formal consideration by the U.S. Senate.

Freight: TIGER Reformed and Refocused

Develops a National Freight Strategy and Strategic Plan -
Sets goals to enhance U.S. economic competitiveness by improving freight transportation networks that serve our agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and energy sectors. Focuses freight planning efforts in the Office of the Secretary with the Undersecretary for Policy to provide multimodal coordination.

Authorizes a Freight Grant Program - Formally authorizes the TIGER transportation grants program, and refocuses funding efforts on freight infrastructure. The bill reforms the project selection processes to increase accountability and transparency of grants.

Flexibility for States

Provides for Flexible State Planning -
Improves freight planning efforts to ensure that freight planning is multimodal and addresses the links between highways, railroads, ports, airports, and pipelines.

Grant Consolidation - As proposed by the Administration GROW AMERICA Act, the bill consolidates Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) state trucking enforcement grants to provide additional flexibility to states to administer enforcement programs.

Grant Flexibility
- Increases emphasis on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highway safety grants, allocated according to state population and road mileage, to address each state’s unique highway safety challenges and provide additional opportunities for states to obtain grants to combat impaired and distracted driving.

Regulatory Reform and Transparency

Petitions -
Requires FMCSA to respond to petitions for review of regulations or new rulemakings (Proposed by Sen. Fischer).

Transparency - Requires FMCSA to maintain updated records relating to regulatory guidance, and provides for regular review to ensure consistency and enforceability (Proposed by Sen. Fischer).

CSA Reform - Reforms the troubled Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to address concerns raised by the DOT IG, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and a DOT internal review team to create more transparency by ensuring the accuracy of information and analysis.

Beyond Compliance - Incentivizes investment in innovative safety technology and management practices to improve truck safety.

Port Performance Act - Includes legislation previously approved by the Commerce Committee to increase transparency of port operation by providing currently non-existent 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.

NHTSA Oversight and Improvement

Vehicle Recalls
- Improves consumer awareness of vehicle safety information and requires franchised dealers and car rental companies to provide consumers with notification of open safety recalls. Increases the time consumers have to seek a free remedy for tire recalls and creates a state pilot grant to inform consumers of open vehicle recalls at the time of motor vehicle registration.

Provides Increased Oversight of NHTSA - Following a record number of recalls for defects linked to fatalities, high profile failures by the auto safety regulator and expert testimony that the most immediate needs are to fix fundamental problem of NHTSA’s defect identification and investigation process and not substantial increased funding, the bill requires the DOT Inspector General and NHTSA to provide updates on how NHTSA is addressing these problems and directs audits of NHTSA’s management of vehicle safety recalls, public awareness of recall information, and NHTSA’s research efforts.

Promoting Crash Avoidance Technology - Adds a requirement that crash avoidance information, such as active braking and lane-tracking technology, be included next to the 5-star information on the car sticker for consumers purchasing new vehicles.  


Passenger Rail
- Includes the bipartisan Railroad Reform Enhancement and Efficiency Act authored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), which was amended and passed the Commerce Committee by unanimous voice vote, increasing safety, improving infrastructure, cutting red tape, and empowering state and local officials.

Positive Train Control (PTC) - Requires the Secretary to review, on a case-by-case basis, updated plans with enforceable milestones to ensure full and successful PTC implementation. Sets a new and attainable deadline, not later than 2018, for most freight and passenger railroads to fully install necessary PTC equipment on trains, in facilities, and along track.

Click here for text of the bill as introduced.

Click here for a section-by-section summary.