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June 09, 2014

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GOVERNMENT WATCH THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE 17 don't allow increase in appropriations for habor maintenance to come at the expense of other lines in the civil works budget, such as flood control and environmental mitiga- tion, he said. At the same time, the cost of maintaining harbor channels to their federally autho- rized depths will increase, he said. The current law requires the federal goverment and local sponsor to split the cost of main- taining a channel beyond 45 feet. WRRDA would keep the 50-50 ratio but increase the depth level to 50 feet. That would leave the local sponsors, most likely the port authori- ties, to pick up half the cost of maintaining depths beyond 50 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it costs about $1.5 billion to main- tain channels to their federally authorized depths. But it's unclear how much time and cost it will take the corps to make up for dredging that has been put off in recent years while taking on even deeper drafts. The rush to deepen East Coast harbors to be able to handle the larger ships that will be able to pass through the expanded Panama Canal in 2016 will further pressure the civil works budget. Whether appropriators follow the guidance set by WRRDA largely depends on how involved the main authors are in getting their colleagues in the finance and budget committees to get on board, P ayne said. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa.; T&I ranking member Nick Rahall, D-W.Va,, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Sen. Bar - bara Boxer, D-Calif.; and Environment and Public Works ranking member David Vit- ter, R-La., were the main drivers in getting the first water resources development bill in seven years. Port and trade groups also must keep the pressure on appropriators, Payne said. "The broad guidelines have been passed," he said. "Now it's all going to be about getting the money and the specifics." JOC Contact Mark Szakonyi at and follow him on Twitter: @szakonyi_joc. THREE REPUBLICAN MEMBERS of Congress introduced a bill that would require U.S. shippers and freight brokers to ensure trucking companies are registered with fed- eral authorities, have adequate insurance and have a "satisfactory" or "conditional" safety rating before hiring or contracting them. The legislation introduces a national hiring standard for shippers, brokers and other parties buying trucking services. That would head off a patchwork of state-by-state standards that could evolve from local court decisions, said Robert Voltmann, presi- dent of the Transportation Intermediaries Association. "Every time a shipper, broker, forwarder or receiver hires a carrier, they are essen- tially playing Russian roulette for their livelihood," said Voltmann, whose asso- ciation backs the bill. "What we have is interstate commerce, so we need a predict- able national standard of care." At the heart of the debate behind the bill are two sources of motor carrier safety data increasingly used against brokers and shippers in negligent hiring claims follow- ing truck accidents. The first is the carrier safety rating assigned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory. The second is the publicly available carrier safety scores, in five categories, from the FMCSA's Com- pliance, Safety, Accountability — or CSA — program. Those CSA scores, which cha nge monthly, aren't linked to a carrier's safety fitness rating, and although the FMCSA is working on a rule that would link them, the rule isn't on the books yet. Shippers and brokers say they are under increasing pressure to decide whether a carrier is safe to use, based on CSA scores. "The current state of affairs of CSA and the ever-increasing threat of negligent selection lawsuits based on the CSA data are hurting the transportation industry," Voltmann told the JOC. "In the absence of a national standard, we see courts making their own standards." Under federa l law, the FMCSA is charged with determining whether a carrier is safe, Voltmann said. That's not a respon- sibility that should be shifted to brokers or shippers, he said. JOC Contact William B. Cassidy at and follow him on Twitter: @wbcassidy _joc. By William B. Cassidy BILL PROPOSES NEW TRUCKING STANDARDS Legislation heads off state-by-state actions by introducing national hiring rules for those buying trucking services "Every time a shipper, broker, forwarder or receiver hires a carrier, they are essentially playing Russian roulette for their livelihood."

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