NAFA's 2020 Activities and Updates
A continued commitment to advocate for NAFA members and the fleet industry.
US Legislative and Regulatory Issues
House Approves Broad Infrastructure Package
The full U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, the Moving Forward Act (H.R.2) this week. The passed along party lines and includes an authorization for spending on roads, bridges, transit systems, schools, housing, clean energy efforts, rural broadband, and the postal service. The package does not have support from Republicans, who have voice objection to many of the package’s provisions that they consider to be overly progressive and burdensome.
In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on July 1 to highlight bipartisan infrastructure bills that have been considered and advanced through the Committee process. One of the proposals the Committee focused on was the surface transportation and highway bill, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (S.2302). While S.2302 was approved by the EPW Committee last summer, it has yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor.
Impact on Fleet Management: The Moving Forward Act could have a substantial effect on fleet budgets via tax provisions, compliance considerations for vehicle technology and safety requirements, and the general future of mobility services. NAFA is continuing to engage with lawmakers as the negotiations process on an eventual surface transportation reauthorization package continues, to ensure that the priorities of fleet managers are considered in the legislation.
California Adopts Zero-Emissions Truck Rule
On June 25, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted a rule requiring truck manufacturers to transition from diesel trucks and vans to electric zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024.
The proposed mandate will initially require 5% - 9% zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) based on class, rising to 30%-50% by 2030. By 2045, all vehicles should be ZEVs “where feasible.” The regulation would apply to pickup trucks weighing 8,500 pounds or more, but not to light-duty trucks, which are covered by separate zero-emission regulations.
The rule also includes a reporting requirement for fleet owners with 50 or more trucks to report about their existing fleet operations as a precursor to a fleet acquisition mandate. CARB plans to issue a separate rule in early 2021 that will require large fleet owners to buy ZEVs.
CARB has published a fact sheet on the newly adopted Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation.
Impact on Fleet Management: The newly adopted CARB regulations are likely to impose increased costs on vehicle manufacturers subject to these mandates, which may ultimately be passed down to consumers. Other states may follow California in adopting similar mandates, increasing pressure on vehicle manufacturers dealing with the challenges associated with a patchwork of regulatory requirements. An eventual mandate for fleets to acquire these vehicles will have a direct impact on fleets in affected jurisdictions. While NAFA supports efforts to increase fleet sustainability, NAFA opposes fleet acquisition mandates.
NIOSH Quarterly Spotlights Distracted Driving Policy Considerations
The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Center for Motor Vehicle Safety recently published its quarterly Behind the Wheel at Work newsletter, with the latest edition focusing on critical considerations related to the issue of distracted driving.
The newsletter highlighted fundamental studies showing that “at any given time, 52% of drivers were distracted in some way” and “In 68% of the crashes that led to injury or property damage, some type of distraction was present”. NIOSH also noted another study which “reported that across 70 companies, having a full ban on the use of mobile equipment while driving was significantly associated with a lower percentage of fleet vehicles being involved in a collision.”
The newsletter also provides guidance on the development of a distracted driving policy and additional resources to assist motor vehicle safety programs.
Impact on Fleet Management: NAFA believes that operators of motor vehicles should devote 100% of their attention to operating the vehicle. Because a driver’s use of a personal electronic
device, such a cellular phone, while driving can lead to visual, manual, cognitive and/or other
distractions, NAFA believes that such use should be eliminated. NAFA supports recommendations that employers implement policies that prohibit the use of both hands-free and handheld devices while driving and that those policies apply to all employees.
Automakers Launch New Takata Airbag Lookup Tool
On June 29, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) announced that automakers were rolling out a new tool that allows anyone dealing with aftermarket parts to identify and safely dispose of parts that cannot be re-sold under Federal law. The tool can be utilized through the website FreePartCheck.com, and will be especially helpful in identifying recalled Takata airbags.
The free tool requires no account or login and provides the ability to:
Quickly check if specific parts are subject to recall by entering the part numbers in the search field and generating a report
Search for parts using whatever information is known, including serial number, supplier part number, OEM part number, and/or OEM service part number
Search for one or many parts simultaneously
Provide information about free pickup and disposal for recalled Takata-manufactured airbags
More information can be found at FreePartCheck.com.
Impact on Fleet Management: With a large number of cases of fatalities resulting from Takata airbag explosions, and several DOT studies demonstrating the increased risk of inflator failure linked to the age of the device, ensuring that these parts are appropriately recalled and removed from the market. This tool will be handy for fleet managers involved in monitoring the integrity of vehicle parts used to maintain their organization’s vehicle pool.
Senate Committee Holds FCC Oversight Hearing
The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) leadership, including Chairman Ajit Pai, appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee at a June 24 oversight hearing. Senators covered a variety of FCC-related policy issues at the hearing, including the FCC proposal to open up a portion of the airwaves reserved for automotive safety technology, known as the 5.9 GHz Safety Band Spectrum, for use by other connectivity technologies.
NAFA sent a letter to Committee leadership before the hearing, asking them to use congressional oversight authority to postpone any action by the FCC on the 5.9 GHz band. Opening the 5.9 GHz band raises concerns regarding the safety of competing technologies and interoperability, as testing is still underway. NAFA also joined a broad coalition of transportation stakeholders in a letter to the Committee calling for a preservation of the 5.9 GHz band.
Recently, automakers signaled that a consensus had been reached on a long-term path forward to adopting a single V2X technology standard. However, the plan involves sharing the 5.9 GHz band between current and emergent V2X technologies for five years as they are deployed more widely, with the industry then selecting a single technology and phasing it into the full 5.9 GHz band over ten years.
NAFA filed comments with the FCC in support of the preservation of the full 5.9 GHz band for transportation safety-critical communications, such as DSRC and C-V2X. Many other transportation stakeholders, such as the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, National Safety Council, American Trucking Association, American Highway Users Alliance, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, have filed comments in opposition to the FCC's proposal.
Impact on Fleet Management: With safety being a critical issue for fleet managers, mitigating vehicle crashers will have far-reaching implications, such as for lower insurance premiums, and the use of less fuel, and most importantly, the protection of employees. Substantial delays in the development and deployment of V2X technologies are expected if the FCC proposal is finalized. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize safety and risk management by significantly reducing occurrences of vehicle operator error.
OSHA Issues Return-to-Work Guidance
On June 18, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance to assist employers in reopening non-essential businesses and their employees returning to work during the evolving coronavirus pandemic. OSHA intends for the recent guidance to be used as a supplement to the DOL/HHS Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and the Administration's Guidelines for Opening up America Again.
OSHA's guidelines provide general principles for updating restrictions initially put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The guidance calls for a three-phase reopening that allows workers at higher risk of severe illnesses to telework or have other accommodations while conditions are too hazardous for unrestricted business operations. The guidelines suggest that during each phase of the reopening process, employers should continue to focus on strategies for basic hygiene, social distancing, identification, and isolation of sick employees, workplace controls and flexibilities, and employee training.
Reopening efforts also can include work-site testing of workers for the coronavirus and temperature checks. However, if an employer implements a medical screening program, the documents may trigger the OSHA medical records rule, which requires records to be held for at least 30 years and kept confidential.
The guidance also reminds employers a hazard assessment should be conducted to determine whether personal protection equipment, such as gloves and respirators, are needed. If PPE is needed but not available, the work tasks must be discontinued, the guidance advised.
While the guidance is primarily targeted to employers reopening "non-essential" businesses, it contains valuable information for all organizations to implement as they strive to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Impact on Fleet Management: NAFA recommends that fleet managers continually monitor federal, state, and local government guidelines for updated information about ongoing community transmission and mitigation measures, as well as for evolving guidance on disinfection and other best practices for worker protection. Ensuring good-faith efforts to employ best practices to protect works will be essential to mitigating concerns related to workplace exposure liability.
House Democrats Unveil $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Bill
On June 22, House Democrats published details of their $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), releasing proposed bill text, a fact sheet, and a section-by-section breakdown. The package combines a $500 billion surface transportation bill that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved on June 18 (the INVEST in America Act) with various other clean energy, infrastructure, and education funding proposals already unveiled by Democrats in recent months. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has signaled that the House will vote the legislation before July 4.
NAFA sent a letter ahead of the two-day markup of the surface transportation reauthorization portion of H.R. 2, outlining support for key provisions and raising concerns on certain policy issues of importance for fleet management. NAFA will continue to weigh in with lawmakers on the broader package, as it now extends to significant provisions related to tax credits for electric vehicles and alternative fuels, reauthorization of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant program, the Clean Cities Coalition program, and vehicle safety standards.
H.R. 2 will likely be passed on a party-line vote in the House, as Republicans have expressed their opposition to many of the policy proposals included in the package. It is highly doubtful that in its current form, the bill would have a chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate. Still, it serves as an important indicator of Democratic priorities for future surface transportation and infrastructure negotiations.
Impact on Fleet Management: The broad range of policies included in the Moving Forward Act could have a substantial effect on fleet budgets via tax provisions, compliance considerations for vehicle technology and safety requirements, and the general future of mobility services. While the core legislation related to surface transportation reauthorization is most likely to become law in some form, the forward-looking infrastructure provisions are essential to consider. With a potential shift in the partisan balance of power in Congress and the Administration, certain policies could become more feasible in the near term.
Supreme Court Declines Case Challenging 25% Steel Tariffs
On June 22, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not take up a case brought by the American Institute for International Steel (AIIS) challenging the Administration's use of Section 232 tariffs. The Administration imposed the 25% steel tariff, along with a 10% duty on aluminum imports, in March 2018. While tariffs on imports from Canada and Mexico have been suspended, tariffs still apply to many other countries, including those in the European Union, as well as China and Japan.
In the petition for the case, AIIS made the argument that the section of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 is unconstitutional, as it lacks boundaries on the discretion of the President to impose tariffs. The petition held that this lack of discretion is an overstep of Congress' authority over trade-related matters.
Of note, the Administration has relied on Section 232 authority in the Department of Commerce's investigation into the national security risks poses by imported passenger vehicles and automotive parts. The President issued a proclamation in 2019 that agreed with purported findings of the inquiry that imported autos and certain auto parts threaten to impair the national security of the U.S. However, at this time, no tariffs have been imposed based on the Section 232 investigation into autos and auto parts.
Impact on Fleet Management: Many fleets have already experienced increased equipment-related costs due to the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, especially in the case of vehicle upfitting. Additionally, given the substantial down-the-line impact tariffs on autos and auto parts would have on the prices of foreign and domestic goods, NAFA has strongly expressed the concerns of fleets to the Administration and leaders in Congress and supports legislative efforts to reform the Section 232 tariff authority.
SBA and Treasury New PPP Loan Forgiveness Applications
On June 17, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department posted a revised, borrower-friendly Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness application as part of their implementation of the PPP Flexibility Act of 2020. In addition to revising the full forgiveness application, SBA also published a new EZ version of the forgiveness application that applies to borrowers that:
Are self-employed and have no employees; OR
Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; OR
Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19, and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%.
The EZ application requires fewer calculations and less documentation for eligible borrowers. Details regarding the applicability of these provisions are available in the instructions to the new EZ application form
Both applications give borrowers the option of using the original 8-week covered period (if their loan was made before June 5, 2020) or an extended 24-week covered period. These changes will result in a more efficient process and make it easier for businesses to realize full forgiveness of their PPP loan.
Impact on Fleet Management: PPP loans can be a successful tool for helping businesses with fleets navigate the financial challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowing for PPP loan recipients to access forgiveness via simplified forms will result in a more efficient process and make it easier for businesses to realize full forgiveness of their PPP loan.
House Committee Considers Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill
The House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee held a markup for H.R.2 (previously H.R.7095), the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act, on June 17 and 18. The Committee voted to approve the five-year, $484 billion surface transportation reauthorization package, which contains an extensive list of Democratic transportation priorities.
NAFA sent a letter to the Committee's leaders, Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), prior to the markup thanking them for advancing the process of surface transportation reauthorizing and offering comments on several of the provisions in the INVEST in America Act. NAFA provided feedback on the national vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) pilot program, changes to the underride guard regulatory requirements, and the creation of a grant program to foster the deployment of alternative fueling and charging infrastructure. NAFA plans to make additional comments on the legislation and continue to work with lawmakers as the package progresses through the legislative process.
While the House may pass the legislation in the coming weeks, significant work will need to be done via negotiations with the Senate committees of jurisdiction before a final reauthorization package emerges. A critical point of contention continues to be a financing measure to fund the proposed legislation.
Impact on Fleet Management: Several provisions in H.R.2 could have a significant impact on policies governing vehicle-related standards, and others present opportunities for fleets to advance their delivery of mobility services. Additionally, surface transportation reauthorization is a key priority for NAFA, as ensuring the U.S. has a system of well-maintained highways and well-funded safety programs will protect roadway users and their vehicles.
FMCSA Issues Extends COVID-19 Related Regulatory
On June 8, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended and modified its emergency declaration for motor carriers that are providing direct assistance in support of coronavirus-related relief efforts. The revised declaration is now in effect through July 14, and it narrows the exemptions to offer regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts limited to transportation of:
Livestock and livestock feed;
Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19; and
Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants.
Direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.
Additionally, the FMCSA has granted a three-month waiver (until Sept. 30) from certain pre-employment drug testing requirements to re-employ drivers subject to 49 CFR part 382, on the condition that specific steps are documented.
To use the new waiver, an employer must:
Verify that the driver participated in a Part 382 drug testing program within the prior 90 days;
Verify that the driver, while in that testing program, was either tested for drugs within the last six months (prior to the new date of application) or participated in the random drug testing program for the previous 12 months;
Verify that the driver had no recorded violations of another DOT agency's drug-use regulations within the previous six months;
Purchase a pre-employment query from the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse (§382.701) and not allow any safety-sensitive functions if the results of the query show that the driver had a violation;
Investigate the driver's drug and alcohol testing history with current and previous employers, per §40.25, §382.413, and §391.23; and
Email the FMCSA within five business days of any recordable accident involving any driver for whom the waiver was used.
Impact on Fleet Management: These regulatory relief measures will be necessary for fleets as they resume operations. The waiver for testing requirements will be especially useful for those fleets which have needed to furlough drivers and are now seeking to re-staff to meet the demand for mobility services associated with the reopening and return to work processes underway in many states.
Lawmakers Question NHTSA's Cybersecurity Approach on Internet-Connected Vehicles
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on June 11, asking NHTSA to share any information it has on the cyber vulnerabilities of connected cars, as well as any actions it is taking to protect the public from such threats. The Senators were not satisfied with NHTSA's response to an August letter they sent on the issue, in which the agency stated that it is "not aware of any malicious hacking attempts that have created safety concerns for the motoring public."
The Senators' most recent letter also includes questions for NHTSA regarding its oversight and public disclosure of information regarding over-the-air (OTA) software updates designed to fix safety defects in cars without a physical recall. While NHTSA has acknowledged that software defects are still defects and OEMs should be following standard recall processes before issuing OTA fixes, it is unclear to what degree NHTSA is monitoring and enforcing this issue with OTA updates.
Impact on Fleet Management: As the prevalence and sophistication of internet-connected vehicles expands, the risk of cybersecurity threats that jeopardize on-road safety or data privacy could become a significant issue for fleet managers to monitor and mitigate. The current uncertainty in the oversight process of OTA vehicle updates presents a challenge for fleet managers as they strive to maintain awareness of potential safety and maintenance concerns. The growing prevalence of OTA updates could also potentially limit a fleet manager's ability to perform in-house vehicle diagnostics, as some OEMs move towards restricting access via the OBD-II port.
SBA Issues Rules on PPP Loan Flexibility Changes
On June 12, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Treasury Dept. issued new and revised guidance for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to implement the changes detailed in the Protection Program Flexibility Act (PPPFA). The PPPFA was signed into law by President Trump on June 5, 2020. They also issued an updated PPP borrower application form.
The SBA guidance addressed a potential issue if a borrower used less than 60% of the loan amount for payroll costs during the forgiveness covered period, ensuring that they would still be eligible for partial loan forgiveness.
Impact on Fleet Management: PPP loans can be a successful tool for helping businesses with fleets navigate the financial challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional PPP loan flexibility is a welcome development, and NAFA is working to have the PPP loan program further enhanced via extending eligibility to public entities.
DOT Launches Automated Vehicle Initiative
On June 15, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it was beginning a new program to improve the safety and testing transparency of automated driving systems, the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative. Nine companies and eight states (CA, FL, MD, MI, OH, PA, TX, and UT) have signed on as the first participants.
The AV TEST Initiative will include a series of public events across the country to improve transparency and safety in the development and testing of automated driving systems and will be open to all stakeholders involved in the safe development and testing of automated driving system vehicles. At the state and local level, participants may include DMVs, DOTs, highway safety offices, and city governments.
Participants can share information about their activities, which will help increase the public's awareness of testing, centralize the DOT's role in promoting safety and innovation, and build stronger relationships among Federal, State, and local governments and stakeholders.
Impact on Fleet Management: This DOT project will be an important source of consolidated information for AV safety and testing practices underway in the U.S. Monitoring developments related to AVs is essential for fleet managers as they have the potential to substantially shape the future of mobility and their role within organizations.
June 9, 2020
House Democrats Introduce Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill
On June 3, House Democrats released the bill text for a five-year, $494 billion surface transportation reauthorization package, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act (H.R.7095). The House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee has also published a corresponding fact sheet, summary, and section-by-section breakdown of the bill. The package still does not address some key elements or surface transportation reauthorization, such as the issue of financing this multi-year funding bill.
House T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said that the committee plans to markup and pass the package on June 17 and have a full vote on the House floor at the beginning of July. The bill serves as an opening offer from House Democrats on the policy portions of the bill that will replace the current highway bill, the FAST Act, which set to expire at the end of September. It is not likely to become law in its current form, and many of the proposals it includes will face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Impact on Fleet Management: Surface transportation reauthorization is a key priority for NAFA, as ensuring the U.S. has a system of well-maintained highways and well-funded safety programs will protect roadway users and their vehicles. NAFA is monitoring several provisions included in H.R.7095, as they could potentially be included in a final package.
- Increases funding for state Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT) pilots and encourages States to begin implementing successful VMT programs.
- Establishes a national VMT pilot program, including both passenger and commercial vehicles in all 50 States, to invest in developing a sustainable funding mechanism for the surface transportation system.
- Applies commercial driver licensing requirements to vehicles carrying 9-15 passengers.
- Directs DOT to review the costs and benefits of requiring lap/shoulder belts in large school buses and consider requiring them in newly manufactured buses.
- Requires newly manufactured school buses to be equipped with automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control systems.
- Directs DOT to complete a rulemaking to require Automatic Emergency Braking systems in newly-manufactured commercial motor vehicles.
- Directs DOT to strengthen rear underride guard standards in newly-manufactured trailers and semi-trailers, to further research and consider the feasibility, benefits, and costs associated with installing side underride guards, and creates an Advisory Committee on Underride Protection.
- Provides $2 billion over five years for grants to improve traffic safety in critical areas. Makes targeted improvements to specific Section 405 grants, which have been underutilized. Reforms will increase State participation while still maintaining strong safety standards for the following areas: Impaired driving; Distracted driving; and Graduated driver’s licensing laws.
- Requires States who have legalized marijuana to consider ways of increasing public awareness over the dangers of drugged driving and ways to reduce injuries and fatalities resulting from driving under the influence of marijuana.
- Provides $350 million per year for grants for electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Focuses funding on designated Alternative Fuel Corridors and projects that demonstrate the most effective emissions reductions.
NAFA Endorses Bill to Expand Alternative Fueling/Charging Infrastructure Credit
On June 4, NAFA sent a letter of support
to Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), for their legislation, S.3735
, the Securing America’s Clean Fuels Infrastructure Act
. The bill would improve and expand the existing Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which is known as “30C.”
The 30C tax credit provides a 30% credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property, which includes electric charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations. However, 30C expires December 31, 2020, and is capped at $30,000 per location. The proposed bill would increase the cap to $200,000, allow the 30C credit to be applied to each piece of refueling property (rather than per location), and extends the credit for eight years.
Impact on Fleet Management:
The renewal and expansion of the 30C tax credit would potentially aid many fleets with alternative fuel vehicles, especially those with plug-in electric vehicles. Offsetting the costs associated with maintaining and operating these vehicles via the 30C credit can be significant cost-savings for fleets as they make vehicle acquisition decisions. NAFA is working closely with the bill’s sponsors to advocate for its passage in Congress.
Bill to Make PPP Loans More Flexible Becomes Law
On June 5, the President signed H.R.7010
, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act, into law. The legislation modifies PPP loans and the terms of loan forgiveness to make them more favorable for borrowers.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act:
- Extends the PPP loan forgiveness period to include costs incurred over 24 weeks after a loan is issued or through Dec. 31, whichever comes first. Businesses that received a loan before the measure’s enactment could keep the current eight-week period.
- Extends to Dec. 31 from June 30 a period in which loans can be forgiven if businesses restore staffing or salary levels that were previously reduced. The provision applies to worker and wage reductions made from Feb. 15 through 30 days after enactment of the CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27.
- Maintains forgiveness amounts for companies that document their inability to rehire workers employed as of Feb. 15, and their inability to find similarly qualified workers by the end of the year. Under the modified measure, companies are covered separately if they show that they could not resume business levels from before Feb. 15 because they were following federal requirements for sanitization or social distancing.
- Requires businesses to spend at least 60% of their PPP funds on payroll expenses to qualify for full loan forgiveness, instead of the current 75% rule.
- Repeals a provision from the CARES Act that barred companies with forgiven PPP loans from deferring their payroll tax payments.
- Allows borrowers to defer principal and interest payments on PPP loans until the SBA compensates lenders for any forgiven amounts, instead of the current six-month deferral period. Borrowers that don’t apply for forgiveness would be given at least 10 months after the program expires to start making payments.
- Establishes a minimum loan maturity period of 5 years following an application for loan forgiveness, instead of the current two-year deadline set by the SBA. That provision would apply to PPP loans issued after the measure’s enactment, though borrowers and lenders could agree to extend current loans.
Impact on Fleet Management: NAFA is pleased that PPP loans will become more usable for recipients, as many businesses are still navigating financial challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. NAFA will continue to advocate for further PPP loan reforms, which could allow the program to be of use for a greater variety of entities, such as to state and local governments
Senate Committee Hearing Examines Transportation Industry’s Response to COVID-19
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on June 3, titled “The State of Transportation and Critical Infrastructure: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The discussion was focused on how surface transportation and the supply chain have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Bozzella, President of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators), outlined how the automotive industry has grappled with challenges throughout the pandemic, and generally, how it has impacted the automotive market. The Auto Innovators stressed that the auto supply chain is currently facing a high level of uncertainty and that the government should assist in the automotive markets’ recovery and growth in the future.
Impact on Fleet Management: While a concrete proposal for targeted auto-industry stimulus has not yet emerged, this Senate Committee hearing underscores the heightened profile of the issue. NAFA is monitoring developments in Congress related to this potential Congressional action, as fleets could stand to benefit from added price stability within the automotive market, and prospective auto-focused stimulus programs.
BLS Reports May Increase in Employment
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced on June 5 that nonfarm payroll employment rose by 2.5 million in May, and the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3%. These labor market developments were largely unexpected, as many economists had been forecasting a continuation of the negative trends seen in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia issued the following statement following the publication of this employment data. “Today’s report shows much higher job creation and lower unemployment than expected, reflecting that the re-opening of the economy in May was earlier, and more robust, than projected. Millions of Americans are still out of work, and the Department remains focused on bringing Americans safely back to work and helping States deliver unemployment benefits to those who need them. However, it appears the worst of the coronavirus’s impact on the nation’s job markets is behind us.”
Impact on Fleet Management: Positive trends related to employment are a strong signal that many businesses are resuming operations in some capacity across the U.S. While day-to-day operations of many fleets may still need to be significantly altered, a resumption of business activity should also coincide in an increase in demand for mobility services.
June 4, 2020 Update
Updated CDC Guidance Includes Changes for Employer Transportation Practices
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for employers on May 27 to help mitigate COVID-19 exposure risk within office buildings. The guidance highlights several actions employers should consider prior to resuming operations to create a safe and healthy workplace.
A significant change reflected on the CDC’s general Guidance for Businesses & Employers, is a recommendation for employers to “offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others (e.g., biking, walking, driving or riding by car either alone or with household members).” The CDC’s suggested transportation-related restrictions stand to substantially impact the way many individuals are opting to travel to work.
Organizations should regularly check relevant government agency resources to ensure they are following the latest guidance and recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Impact on Fleet Management: With many fleet managers having responsibility for organizational vehicle pools, parking, transit reimbursement, and transportation policies generally, they may need to consider potential policy modifications as updated guidance is published. Additionally, to protect themselves from liability concerns, fleet managers should be sure to implement infection-control measures as feasible.
Paycheck Program Flexibility Act Passed by the House
On May 28, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, by a vote of 417-1 conducted via the newly implemented proxy voting system. The legislation is intended to provide PPP loan borrowers with more flexibility with how they use their loans by:
Extending the expense forgiveness period from 8 weeks to 24 weeks
Reducing the 75% payroll ratio requirement to 60%
Eliminating 2-year loan repayment restrictions for future borrowers
Allowing payroll tax deferment for PPP recipients
Extending the June 30 rehiring deadline to December 31, 2020 (with certain exceptions)
The bipartisan bill now heads to the Senate for consideration, which may amend the legislation to include further PPP reforms.
Impact on Fleet Management: Increased flexibility created within PPP loans by H.R.7010 would be welcome for recipients, as they manage the ongoing financial burdens of irregular operations. Currently, PPP loans are, for the most part, only accessible to private organizations, but there are proposals in Congress to extend PPP eligibility to state and local governments. As fleet managers and their employers grapple with the challenges of retaining employees, PPP loans could serve as a valuable resource.
Pandemic Risk Insurance Legislation Proposed in the House
In light of the systemic challenges businesses have faced related to the business interruption insurance market during the COVID-19 crisis, H.R.7011, the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA) of 2020, was introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) on May 26. The legislation creates a Pandemic Risk Reinsurance Program that would establish a system of shared public and private compensation for business interruption losses resulting from future pandemics or public health emergencies. The sponsors have released a section-by-section summary of the bill as well.
PRIA is modeled on the successful Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which has been integral in encouraging insurers to cover acts of terrorism, a similarly difficult to insure incident. The Pandemic Risk Reinsurance Program that would be created under H.R.7011 is also intended to be flexible for insurers to hopefully ensure that policyholders are not burdened by mandatory expenses that will be passed down by their insurance providers.
Impact on Fleet Management: Reforming the current business interruption insurance market stands to benefit policyholders in the face of future pandemic-related shutdowns. Many organizations with fleets may have held interruption polices but have since come to find out during the current COVID-19 pandemic that they are not covered for losses incurred due to shutdowns. This kind of broader reform could be included in the next COVID-19 relief legislation.
Bill Introduced to Create Tax Credit for Cleaning and PPE Expenses
A bipartisan bill was introduced on May 29, the Clean Start: Back to Work Tax Credit Act, by two members of the House Ways & Means Committee, Reps. Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL). If enacted, the legislation would create a temporary tax credit available for businesses to help offset increased costs of cleaning, disinfection, and other protective equipment needed to combat COVID-19.
The tax credit would cover 50% of eligible expenses up to $25,000 per location ($250,000 per business entity) per year. Qualified expenses would need to be incurred before March 31, 2021, and include the costs of:
industry-recognized training and certification;
contracting a cleaning company and/or;
purchasing of necessary cleaning products, tools, machinery, personal protective equipment, and other sanitary-related equipment needed to help ensure a safe and sanitary environment.
As stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, and businesses reopen, many are likely to incur additional expenses related to proper disinfection and sanitation to ensure workers and the public are protected from exposure to COVID-19.
Impact on Fleet Management: The creation of tax credits to help offset added cleaning costs fleets will assume to protect employees and the public from COVID-19 could be a significant line of budgetary assistance. Many organizations are already facing budgetary constraints related to COVID-19, and this credit could prove invaluable.
Members of Congress Push for Auto Industry Recovery Proposals
A bipartisan group of House members from states with a significant auto industry presence recently sent a letter to House leadership pushing for aid to stabilize the automotive sector. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI) led the effort and were joined by 52 other members of the House. The auto industry has been severely impacted by factory shutdowns and declining car sales due to COVID-19.
The letter broadly calls for Congress to develop a response that stabilizes the auto industry, given its impact on both U.S. employment and GDP. While no specific proposal has emerged at this time, one potential plan being floated as a possibility by automakers would be a “Cash-for-Clunkers” style program.
Auto-parts manufacturers have ramped up lobbying for access to federal loans under the Main Street Lending Program, to help resolve liquidity issues many are facing as a result of the decline in vehicle manufacturing. According to a recent letter to the Administration from the Motor & Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (MEMA), 21% of auto parts suppliers have eight weeks or fewer before declaring insolvency.
Impact on Fleet Management: The downturn in vehicle manufacturing cause by COVD-19 shutdowns and weakened auto sales is creating a high level of uncertainty within the automotive market. Congressional action will be integral to sustaining the auto industry and generally stabilizing the cost of vehicles and vehicle parts. Additionally, depending on what form the relief takes, fleets could be presented with a valuable opportunity via a trade-in style vehicle rebate program.
May 28, 2020 Update
Congressional Report Outlines Funding Options for U.S. Highways
On May 21, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report on the revenues and spending choices lawmakers face in addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), as well as options for subsidizing state and local governments' financing of highway projects.
Absent any change, the HTF is expected to suffer a funding shortfall in 2021, which would amount to $189 billion by 2030. The current authorization for highway spending is set to expire at the end of September, and lawmakers are expected to past short-term funding extensions while they determine what course to take to fund the HTF going forward.
The CBO report provides members of Congress several revenue-generating mechanisms for consideration. The options presented include an increase in the current federal fuels excise taxes, new user-based taxes such as a one on vehicle miles traveled (VMT), on freight shipments carried by trucks, or on electric vehicles. The report also identifies transfers from the Treasury's general fund as a viable mechanism, which is an approach Congress has taken in the past.
Lawmakers have recently been discussing the idea of imposing a VMT tax that would only apply to commercial trucks, as it may raise fewer implementation concerns related to administering the fee and on privacy considerations. The exact structure and concept of a "truck-only" VMT are still very much unclear at this time, including which classes of truck would be covered.
Auto Industry Supports Administration in SAFE Rule Litigation
After a free-market group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), filed a lawsuit challenging the final EPA/NHTSA rule on fuel economy and emissions standards through 2026 (1.5% increase/year), the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) intervened on May 22 to support the Administration's rule. CEI believes that the standards set by the Administration are still too stringent and are calling for an all-out "freeze" of the fuel economy and emissions rules. The President of the Auto Innovators, John Bozzella, said in a statement that: "The auto industry remains united in its desire for yearly improvements in fuel economy and greenhouse gas reductions."
A segment of manufacturers from the Auto Innovators, including Honda, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volkswagen, are not participating in the suit. This is likely due to an agreement many of those automakers have with California to reach standards that are a compromise between current standards and prior rules set by the Obama Administration.
NAFA supports the move towards increased sustainability and believes that a unified national standard helps automakers maintain prices on autos and auto parts, which is extremely important for fleets as they consider a vehicle's total cost of ownership.
Administration Encourages Regulatory Flexibility in New Executive Order
On May 19, President Trump issued an executive order (EO) intended to ease the federal regulatory burden on employers as the economy begins to reopen. Among its provisions, the EO requires agencies to consider taking action to temporarily or permanently rescind, modify, or waive regulations that may inhibit economic growth. The EO also instructs agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to consider the regulated entities' reasonable good faith efforts to comply with existing guidance and regulations in enforcement proceedings, as many are complex and regularly changing in response to the COVID-19 situation.
Additionally, OSHA recently revised two April policies relating to its enforcement protocols and the recording of COVID-19 transmissions in the workplace. OSHA will now require employers to determine whether a case of COVID-19 in the workplace is work-related as defined by OSHA regulations. The revisions took effect on May 26.
NAFA is closely following several of the federal agencies and will report to NAFA members on actions taken by the agencies to ease regulatory burdens
U.S.-Canada/Mexico Borders Remain Closed to Non-Essential Travel
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on May 19 that border restrictions currently in place would be extended for both Canada and Mexico until June 22, ahead of the current agreements expiring on May 21. These restrictions apply to land ports of entry, and they limit cross border travel to essential purposes, including:
The restrictions are primarily intended to curb tourism-related traveling, as the Administration has strongly signaled that it wants to continue to keep cross-border commercial trade flowing.
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
- Traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
- Traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);
- Traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
- Engaging in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);
- Engaging in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
- Engaging in military-related travel or operations.
PPP Loan Forgiveness Application Available
On May 15, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Department of the Treasury released the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application and Instructions for borrowers. The form and instructions inform borrowers on how to apply for forgiveness of their PPP loans under the CARES Act. Additionally, SBA is expected to issue regulations and guidance soon to assist borrowers further as they complete their applications.
The form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers, including:
- Options for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an "alternative payroll covered period" that aligns with borrowers' regular payroll cycles
- Flexibility to include eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the eight-week period after receiving their PPP loan
- Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the calculations required by the CARES Act to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness
- Borrower-friendly implementation of statutory exemptions from loan forgiveness reduction based on rehiring by June 30
- Addition of a new exemption from the loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined
May 20, 2020 Update
House Passes CARES 2.0 Package
On May 15, the House passed H.R.6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, by a vote of 208-199. The legislation is a $3 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, being referred to as “CARES 2.0” and contains many of House Democrat’s legislative priorities. Provisions in the package included:
- Additional individual stimulus payments
- $1 trillion in funding for state and local governments
- A grant program for employers to provide pandemic premium pay
- Expansion of the employee retention tax credit
- Extension of the $600/week federal pandemic unemployment compensation
- An OSHA COVID-19 exposure standard for certain industries
- Changes to COVID-19 paid leave benefits
- Pension plan funding relief proposals
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has signaled that CARES 2.0 would not be considered in its current form, and the White House has also expressed no interest in the proposal as it stands. The package is viewed as an opening to negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief bill, which is unlikely to materialize until June at the earliest.
Senate Judiciary Committee Examines Liability Issue
On May 12, the full Senate Judiciary Committee met for a hearing entitled “Examining Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Members of the committee discussed the various concerns related to reopening the country while dealing with COVID-19 related liability issues that businesses and public institutions may face in the process.
At the hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said: “The federal role in creating liability protections needs to be limited. We're not going to preempt all state laws here about everything. We need to make sure that bad actors are not given a break, but that the people who are trying to do it right can reopen their businesses in their communities, schools, and colleges with the assurance that if you practice the right procedures that you don't have to worry about getting sued on top of everything else.”
Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has echoed that sentiment and said on other occasions that Congress must agree to change the current liability system before he’d agree to other costly proposals in a future COVID-19 relief bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated she’s open to the idea of protecting businesses that follow government regulations and guidelines, and some moderate Democrats have expressed support for some liability protections.
DOT Published Final Hours-of-Service Rule
On May 14, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a final rule updating hours of service (HOS) regulations to increase safety on America’s roadways by updating existing regulations for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. In summary, the rule:
- expands the short-haul exception to 150 air-miles and allows a 14-hour work shift to take place as part of the exception;
- expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional 2 hours;
- requires a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break; and
- modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7, rather than at least 8 hours of that period in the berth and a minimum off-duty period of at least 2 hours spent inside or outside of the berth, provided the two periods total at least 10 hours, and that neither qualifying period counts against the 14-hour driving window.
The new HOS rule is being welcomed by many stakeholders, such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA), on the basis that they believe it substantially improves regulatory flexibility, while still maintaining on-road safety.
Senators Introduce Bill to Expand Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Credit
U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), introduced S.3735, the Securing America’s Clean Fuels Infrastructure Act, on May 14. The legislation would improve and expand the existing Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which is known as “30C.”
The 30C tax credit provides a 30% credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property, which includes electric charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations. However, 30C expires December 31, 2020, and is capped at $30,000 per location. The proposed bill would increase the cap to $200,000, allow the 30C credit to be applied to each piece of refueling property (rather than per location), and extends the credit for eight years.
The goal of the legislation is to encourage more private investment in clean refueling infrastructure for vehicles that run on fuels other than gasoline and allow for the financing of multiple charging or refueling stations at one location. NAFA has been a longtime supporter of the 30C credit, as it can be a substantial help to fleets as they build out the necessary infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles.
FMCSA Extends Emergency HOS Exemption
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended its emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service (HOS) regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the COVID-19 outbreak until June 14. The substance of the declaration was not altered, but the extension does signal that the FMCSA anticipates that daily life will continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic for the immediate future.
May 13, 2020 Update
Legislation Introduced to Expand Employee Retention Credit
Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) introduced H.R.6776, the Jumpstarting Our Businesses’ Success (JOBS) Credit Act, alongside Reps. John Katko (R-NY), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Chris Pappas (D-NH) on May 8th. According to the sponsors, the bill would expand the employee retention tax credit created under the $2 trillion COVID-19 response legislation, the CARES Act. Currently, the law grants businesses a tax credit of up to $5,000 per employee for the rest of the year.
If enacted the legislation would:
- Increase the credit percentage from 50% to 80% of qualified wages;
- Increase the per-employee limitation from $10,000 for all calendar quarters to $15,000 per calendar quarter (and an aggregate of $45,000 for all calendar quarters);
- Change the threshold for treatment as a large employer from employers having more than 100 employees to employers having more than 1,500 employees (based on the average number of full-time employees in 2019) or having gross receipts above $41.5 million in 2019;
- Make it easier for employers to qualify for the credit by phasing in the credit so that employers who have experienced more than a 20 percent decline in gross receipts can claim a portion of the credit;
- Clarify that “qualified wages” include qualified health benefits and that employers who continue providing such benefits to their employees qualify for the ERTC even if they do not continue paying other qualifying wages;
- Allow state, territory, and tribal governmental employers (and any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality of these entities) to claim the credit if these employers retain employees notwithstanding the closure of their operations; and
- Improve coordination between the ERTC and the Paycheck Protection Program so employers can be eligible for both programs, but with guardrails in place to prevent “double-dipping.”
House Democrats Release Text of Next COVID-19 Relief Proposal
On May 12th, House Democrats released text of the H.R.6800, Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a $3 trillion stimulus bill to help manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and reopen the economy. The legislation would provide an additional $1,200 in payments to individuals, as well as $1,200 per dependent, up to $6,000 per household. The bill also seeks nearly $1 trillion in funding for state and local governments.
Furthermore, the bill includes provisions for a COVID-19 Heroes Fund, which would allow employers to apply for grants to provide their essential workers with pandemic premium pay at a rate equal to $13 for each hour of work. Workers would be retroactively eligible for this pandemic premium pay from January 27, 2020, until the date that is 60 days after the last day of the COVID–19 Public Health Emergency.
According to the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the chamber is expected to meet at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, May 15th, to consider the legislation.
Lawmakers Explore Options to Sustain Auto Industry
A bipartisan group of House members from states with a large auto industry presence is reportedly pushing for aid to the sector that has been hit by factory shutdowns and declining car sales due to COVID-19. The effort is being led by Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI). Nine members of Congress from both parties so far have signed on to a draft letter congressional leadership urging consideration of proposals to support auto industry employment in future coronavirus legislation.
While no concrete legislative proposal has emerged, one potential plan being floated as a possibility by automakers would be a “Cash-for-Clunkers” style program.
Meanwhile, auto-parts manufacturers are also lobbying for access to federal loans so they can resume making the components necessary for U.S. automobile assembly plants to begin producing cars once more.
Outline of State Licensing and Registration Operations
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) is providing consolidated information to see how various state motor vehicle administrations are handling driver licensing and vehicle registration at this time. The latest version of the chart can be found on the AAMVA homepage.
NHTSA Publishes 2019 Auto Fatality Estimates
On May 5th, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed its early estimates from its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) on 2019’s highway crashes. In a press release, NHTSA reported that deaths caused by highway accidents declined for the third consecutive year. The statistical projection estimated that fatalities were down about 1.2% from 2018, despite Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increasing 0.9%.
May 7, 2020 Update
NAFA Joins Coalition Letter Calling for Suspension of FET on Heavy-Duty Trucks
On April 28, NAFA joined members of the Modernize the Truck Fleet (MTF) Coalition and other transportation stakeholders in a letter to Congressional leaders requesting that the 12% federal excise tax (FET) on the purchase of new heavy-duty trucks and trailers be suspended until the end of 2021. The coalition is seeking to have the suspension included in the next coronavirus-related package of recovery legislation.
Truck sales have been heavily hit during the crisis, and suspending the FET, which increases the cost of new heavy-duty trucks and trailers by $22,000 on average, could greatly aid the industry as it works to regain footing as the economy reopens. The essential transportation services, such as trucking, have been a vital component in ensuring that disruption of everyday life is minimalized for many Americans during this time.
Over 100 organizations participated in the effort, included the American Truck Dealers (ATD), the American Trucking Associations (ATA), and NTEA (The Association for the Work Truck Industry).
Senate Back in D.C., House Expected to Return Soon
Senators returned to work in the Capitol on Monday, May 4, after a push by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Initially, the House was also scheduled to return but reversed course due to concerns over ensuring that the chamber would be able to meet in-person safely, and is now expected to return on May 11.
As lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., the top priorities will include additional coronavirus relief legislation, judicial nominations, and procedural changes, such as those that would allow remote or proxy voting. Among the proposals being considered in the COVID-19 packages will be the need for certain liability protections for businesses, hazard pay, and more federal funding for states and municipalities to ensure the continuation of essential services.
Congress Looks at Possibility of New Liability Protections
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reportedly said in a joint statement on Friday, May 1, that future coronavirus recovery legislation should including liability protections related to exposure to the virus.
Stakeholders have raised the alarm over the possibility of exposure-related lawsuits that be brought against businesses, especially once the economy is reopened. The core component of claims is that a customer, employee, member of the public, etc. were exposed to COVID-19 in a business or as the result of a business's particular action or failure to act, and then that claimant became sick.
NAFA is closely monitoring the legislative developments related to liability protections, as fleet managers could presently be at risk in these exposure-related suits.
April 28, 2020 Update
Auto Industry Commits to Massive V2X Technology Deployment in Exchange for 5.9 GHz Safety Spectrum Integrity
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents both domestic and foreign-owned automakers, sent a letter to the Chairman Pai of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Secretary Chao of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) committing to deploy a total of 5 million vehicle-to-everything (V2X) radio units on vehicles and roadway infrastructure within five years. However, this industry-wide commitment is dependent on the FCC assuring that all 75 MHz of the 5.9 GHz Band, known as the Safety Spectrum, will be maintained for transportation. The FCC would also need to take action to permit cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-2VX) and dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) to coexist in the 5.9 GHz band.
This proposition to the FCC and DOT is a significant development for the auto industry as automakers have signaled that a consensus has been reached on a path forward to adopting a single V2X technology standard. The Alliance outlined this consensus and its long term plan for the industry to choose a single V2X technology down the road in an April 28 letter to the U.S. DOT. The plan involves sharing the 5.9 GHz band between current and emergent V2X technologies for five years as they are deployed more widely, with the industry then selecting a single technology and phasing it into the full 5.9 GHz band over ten years.
The FCC is currently advancing a proposal to open a portion of the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed use (i.e., Wi-Fi). NAFA submitted comments in opposition to the FCC’s plan, as did other transportation stakeholders such as the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. NAFA supports the auto industry in its pledge to deploy V2X technology on a widespread basis and hopes the FCC will recognize the enormous transportation safety benefit it could ensure by providing assurances that the 5.9 GHz band will be preserved for transportation use.
SBA Resumes Accepting Paycheck Protection Program Loan Applications
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it would once again be accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as of Monday, April 27, at 10:30 am EDT.
In a joint statement by SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, they said, “The PPP has supported more than 1.66 million small businesses and protected over 30 million jobs for hardworking Americans. With the additional funds appropriated by Congress, tens of millions of additional workers will benefit from this critical relief.”
NAFA is closely monitoring regulations and guidance being published related to the PPP.
USMCA Goes Into Force July 1
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress on April 24 that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will enter into force on July 1, 2020. While the agreement has been supported by many stakeholders, including the auto industry, adjusting to certain provisions such as the automotive Rules-of-Origin (ROO) requirements, have raised concerns as manufacturers are in the midst of dealing with coronavirus pandemic.
However, on April 20, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published interim implementing instructions that provide guidance and flexibility related to the USMCA automotive ROO provisions. Additionally, the USTR published a rule that contains instructions on how to submit petitions for alternative staging requirements. Alternative staging requirements allow extensions of some of the auto rule of origin requirements for auto manufacturers.
These administrative actions should hopefully provide the auto industry with the appropriate flexibility in complying with the regulations under the USCMA, as the industry is facing a high level of uncertainty at this time.
April 24, 2020 Update
Congress Passes Additional SBA Coronavirus Loan Program Funding
On April 24, H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, was signed into law. H.R.266 is a $483 billion package that provides funding for the both the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs, in addition to supplementary aid for hospitals and COVID-19 testing. Both the PPP and EIDL programs ran out of money last week, and the SBA was no longer accepting applications due to a lack of funding. The SBA is expected to begin accepting application shortly.
The breakdown of the appropriations in H.R.266 is as follows:
- $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans with $60 billion set aside for smaller lenders
- $50 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
- $10 billion for the EIDL Grants of up to $10,000
- $75 billion for hospitals
- $25 billion for COVID-19 testing
Congress is still working on additional COVID-19 relief packages that could contain a wide range of measures, such as pandemic premium pay for essential workers, financial assistance through a business recovery fund, and other financial relief mechanisms.
April 21, 2020 Update
SBA COVID-19 Loan Programs Run Out of Funding
On April 16, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that the agency is unable to accept any new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) due to a lack of funding. Congress provided funding for these programs in the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Congress and the Administration are currently engaged in negotiations on a legislative package that would likely provide billions more for the SBA’s PPP and EIDLs, as well as additional relief funding for hospitals and widespread COVID-19 testing. With both chambers of Congress not set to return to D.C. until May 4, any near-term proposal will need undisputed support, as it would require unanimous consent to pass without members of Congress convening for a vote.
White House Releases Reopening Plan
On April 16, the President released guidelines for a three-phased reopening of states as they consider ending stay-at-home orders and relaxing social distancing measures taken in response to the Coronavirus. Individual governors will have to make the ultimate decision on whether or not to ease social distancing policies and reopen businesses. The National Governors Association (NGA) is maintaining a COVID-19 resource page with information on state action tracking, including a reference chart on state essential business designations.
Lawmakers Push for Essential Workers “Bill of Rights”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) released a proposal to codify what they refer to as an “Essential Workers Bill of Rights.” While the plan does not tackle these rights in detailed specificity, a few of the issues they would like the proposal to address include:
- Requiring that a premium be paid to essential workers
- Requiring OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard
- Providing employees with permanent paid sick leave and family and medical leave
The members of Congress advocating for these proposals are pushing to have them included in future Coronavirus relief legislation packages.
CISA Essential Workforce Guidance 3.0 Published
The DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released version 3.0 of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers guidance to help state and local jurisdictions and the private sector identify and manage their essential workforce while responding to COVID-19. CISA’s original guidance was released on March 19, 2020, and version 2.0 was subsequently released on March 28, 2020.
Version 3.0 of the guidance clarifies and expands critical infrastructure workers in several categories and provides additional information as considerations for both government and business. One significant change in 3.0 is that in all worker categories, references to “employees” or “contractors” were changed to “workers.”
Workers critical to the manufacturing, distribution, sales, rental, leasing, repair and maintenance of vehicles and other transportation equipment” are essential, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said. Electric-vehicle charging stations and supply chains that enable auto operations to help essential workers travel also are included.
While this guidance is advisory and non-binding, it will be an essential reference tool for policymakers across the U.S., as they weigh options in their jurisdictions in response to the COVID-19 emergency.
Register for the US Advocacy Update Webinar on May 5, 2020
April 14, 2020 Update
Lawmakers Consider Further COVID-19 Relief
On April 9, the Senate failed to advance a measure that would have added $251 billion in funding for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established under H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Without additional appropriations, the SBA is reportedly expected to run out of funding for the PPP sometime during the week of April 12, 2020.
Democrats objected to moving the measure via unanimous consent, maintaining that additional funding is needed to support states, hospitals, and rural and minority-owned small businesses. Democrats are reportedly looking to included other provisions related to hazard pay for essential workers and mail-in voting in further coronavirus response legislation.
Congressional Committee Calls for AV Framework
On April 8, Republican members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee touted the benefits of supporting the development of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) in a statement. Recent challenges related to maintaining the integrity of supply chains and other mobility services amid the COVID-19 crisis have reignited the calls for Congress to work on a federal framework for standards governing self-driving cars.
Some examples of benefits AVs could serve in the current crisis highlighted by the committee include:
Lawmakers have been working on a draft regulatory framework for AVs throughout the 116th Congress, after H.R.3388, the SELF DRIVE Act, fell short of being signed into law in the prior session. NAFA supported the SELF DRIVE Act and is continuing to advocate for federal regulatory guidance for AVs, as the technology has the potential to save lives and revolutionize mobility.
- Helping seniors and those with disabilities become more self-sufficient
- Delivery of tests, medical supplies, groceries, and other necessities
- Supporting the economy through job preservation and creation
- Improving roadway safety
Letter Calls for Delay on USMCA Vehicle Rules of Origin Requirements
A bipartisan group of 31 House members, sent a letter to the United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, asking for temporary flexibility on the new automotive Rules-of-Origin (ROO) requirements going into force under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The ROO requirements apply to autos and auto parts and dictate what percentage of a car and its parts must be from each country in order to qualify for duty-free status.
While many automakers have begun the process of adjusting their supply chains to comply with these forthcoming requirements, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted their operations and capacity to make these kinds of adjustments. Additionally, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are still in the process of developing the regulations related to ROO requirements, creating added uncertainty amid this crisis.
April 9, 2020 Update
Groups Push for Gas Tax Increase in Coronvirus Relief Legislation
Amid discussions on which provisions will be included in possible additional coronavirus response bills, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Trucking Associations have sent a letter to lawmakers calling on them to increase the federal fuel excise tax. The groups argue that the 18.4 cent gasoline excise tax, which has not been increased since 1993, needs to be increased to provide revenues to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF, which pays for highways, bridges, and roads, is currently expected to become insolvent in 2021. They believe an increase in the excise tax would be feasible, given that gasoline is now being sold at historically low prices.
However, a recent study from the Tax Foundation shows that Americans are significantly limiting their travel due to the coronavirus, consequently reducing revenues generated by the gas tax. This sharp decline in revenue could potentially exacerbate the HTF's funding dilemma. Additionally, some have voiced concerns that an increase in the gasoline excise tax at this time would disproportionately impact entities involved in essential functions during the COVID-19 crisis.
NAFA would appreciate insights from members on whether your are seeing a reduction in fuel use and miles driven by you fleet as a result of the coronavirus. Please contact NAFA's U.S. Legislative Counsel with any information you may be able to provide on the subject.
IRS FAQs on Paid Leave and Employee Retention Tax Credits
The Internal Revenue Service has published a series of FAQs for both the COVID-19-Related Tax Credits for Required Paid Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act. The FAQs contain helpful information for businesses currently navigating the uncertainty around staffing and federal relief/assistance as a result of recently enacted policies.
Treasury Releases Guidance on CARES Act Small Business Loans
The CARES Act's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides $349 billion in lending to help keep small businesses running and their workers employed. The Department of the Treasury has issued guidance to help businesses access the program, which currently runs from April 3, 2020, to June 30, 2020.
Automaker Floats New "Cash-for-Clunkers" Program
An executive from Ford Motor Co. recently revealed that internal discussions were taking place surrounding proposals for a "cash-for-clunkers" style program to reinvigorate the auto industry. Automotive sales have reportedly been severely damaged during the pandemic, and many believe a program akin to the 2009 trade-in program would be a necessary lifeline to the industry. With many sectors appealing to lawmakers for inclusion in recovery policies in response to COVID-19, NAFA is actively monitoring developments surrounding this potential automotive incentive program.
April 7, 2020 Update
March Legislative Tracker Available
Several U.S. legislative and regulatory items were advanced in March.
Some of the major highlights were:
Access the Tracker for more detailed information on these developments and more (PDF)
March 31, 2020 Update
- Coronavirus Relief and Stimulus Bills Being Signed Into Law
- Administration Publishing Final Vehicle Fuel Efficiency and Emissions Standards
- NAFA Commenting on FCC Rulemaking to Open Transportation Safety Spectrum
- DHS Issuing Essential Workforce Guidance
- Postponement of REAL ID Enforcement Deadline
- NHTSA Advancing Rulemaking on AVs
- NAFA Sending Congressional Coalition Letter on 2021 DERA Funding
- Senators Filling Brief in Lawsuit to Reveal Report on Auto Tariffs
- FMCSA Announcing CDL Waivers and Emergency HOS Requirements Relief
Largest Economic Stimulus in U.S. History Becomes Law
On March 27, the President signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – H.R. 748, intended to rescue the economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The package provides roughly $500 billion in loans and other assistance for major companies, as well as cities and states struggling with virus-related financial burdens. It also includes $350 billion in aid for small businesses and offers $1,200 direct payments to middle- and low-income American adults, plus $500 for each child. Unemployment insurance would also grow to $600 per week, on top of existing state benefits.
The package also includes funding for the Federal Transit Administration to receive $25 billion for transit providers, including states and local governments across the country, for operating and capital expenses. Funding will be distributed using existing FTA formulas, with an estimated $1.8 billion for rural systems funded. The legislative language also directs the Federal Highway Administration to clarify that states can issue special permits for overweight vehicles and loads to allow for the free flow of critical relief supplies during the current coronavirus epidemic for the duration of the current fiscal year.
For additional information on the SBA's loan programs, the distressed industries program, and other business-related relief measures, NAFA has posted an expanded summary of the CARES Act relief measures. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has published a summary of the CARES Act and is providing a Coronavirus Guide for Small Businesses.
DOL Issues Additional Guidance on Coronavirus-Related Paid Leave Requirements
On March 28, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released additional guidance on the changes to paid sick and family and medical leave benefits for employers with under 500 employees in H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The latest update includes a series of questions and answers on the law, and the DOL's Wage and Hour Division has a COVID-19 website with other critical pieces of information for workplaces.
Generally, covered employers must now provide:
- Two weeks of paid sick leave at the employee's regular rate, where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- Two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee's regular rate, because the employee is unable to work as they are caring for an individual subject to quarantine, or caring for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
- For employees has been employed for at least 30 days, up to an additional ten weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee's regular rate where an employee is unable to work due to a need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
The DOL will not begin enforcement of the FFCRA until April 18, 2020.
Additionally, the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the DOL released a memo on March 20, 2020, outlining how the costs for COVID-19 related paid leave under the FFCRA will be 100% reimbursable through a refundable tax credit.
Coalition Calls on Congress for Sustained DERA Grant Funding
Members of the DERA Coalition, including NAFA, recently sent a letter to members of the House and Senate Appropriation Committees requesting that the EPA's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program be funded at $100 million for FY2021. This would be an increase from the $87 million the coalition was successful in advocating for in FY2020.
The DERA program provides competitive funding for projects that achieve reductions in diesel emissions from mobile sources. It is one of the most effective strategies to replace older heavy-duty vehicles and equipment with newer, cleaner options. NAFA actively advocates for increased DERA funding alongside members of the DERA coalition and will continue such efforts throughout the 2021 appropriations process.
DHS Issues Updated Essential Workforce Guidance
On March 28, the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an updated memo identifying Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During Covid-19 Response. The updated list provides a higher level of clarity on entities within industries, such as transportation, that are essential to the viability of critical infrastructure.
Of particular note, fleet maintenance technicians are included in the energy and public works and infrastructure support services sections. The list is intended to guide jurisdictions considering COVID-19-related restrictions. The list is advisory, not a federal directive or standard.
REAL ID Enforcement Deadline Postponed
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced on March 26 that the REAL ID enforcement deadline would be extended 12 months beyond the current October 1, 2020 deadline to October 1, 2021. This actual is being taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration. DHS is expected to publish a notice of the new deadline in the Federal Register shortly.
Given that many states are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs due to COVID-19, this was expected to create significant challenges with individuals coming into compliance with the previous REAL ID enforcement deadline.
NHTSA Publishes Proposed Rule to Facilitate AV Innovation
On March 30, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposed rule that would update the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to facilitate the development vehicles with Automated Driving Systems (ADS) that do not have traditional manual driving controls. Additionally, the standards regarding occupant protection will be revised in light of the development of vehicles with no occupant compartment, such as occupant-less delivery vehicles.
The proposed rule is a part of NHTSA's broader effort to remove regulatory barriers to emerging autonomous vehicle technologies. NAFA will be commenting on the proposed rule in line with the organization's position that standards should be advanced to spur increased AV development while ensuring necessary safeguards to maintain safety for drivers and public be in place.
EPA Taking Steps to Safeguard Gasoline Supply
The U.S. EPA announced on March 27 that the agency is taking action to protect the U.S. gasoline supply in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the demand in gasoline declines across the nation, this is expected to strain gasoline storage capacity due to gasoline blended to the winter volatility requirements sitting in storage tanks. Typically winter gasoline could not be sold after May 1, which could potentially create challenges as storage tanks could not be filled with gasoline blended for summer.
In response to these possible challenges, the EPA is temporarily waiving the summer low volatility requirements and blending limitations for gasoline through May 20. This action is expected to ensure a constant supply of gas for the U.S., and the EPA may issue additional waivers if necessary.
Review the CARES Act (PDF)
Review the DERA Appropriations Committee Letter (PDF)
Administration Issues Final Vehicle Fuel Efficiency and Emissions Standards
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly issued the second and final part of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule on March 31. The final rule will require automakers to increase the stringency of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and CO2 emissions standards by 1.5% each year through model year 2026, as compared with the standards issued in 2012, which would have required about 5% annual increases. The rules apply to both passenger cars and light trucks.
Environmental advocacy groups and several states have come out in strong opposition to the Administration’s efforts to amend the vehicle standards, and litigation is pending regarding an earlier regulatory action that stripped away California’s authority to set its own standards. The auto industry has been somewhat fragmented in its response, as some automakers have pledged to meet voluntary, more stringent state standards and while others are supporting the Administration’s plan. John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation that represents nearly all major carmakers, said the group would review the rule to assess whether the rule is consistent with the industry’s shared priorities.
NAFA supports the move towards increased sustainability and believes that a unified national standard helps automakers maintain prices on autos and auto parts, which is extremely important for fleets as they consider a vehicle’s total cost of ownership.
March 26, 2020 Update
FMCSA Announces CDL Waivers
On March 24, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted until June 30, 2020, a waiver from certain regulations applicable to interstate and intrastate commercial driver's license (CDL) and commercial learner's permit (CLP) holders and to other interstate drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).
The Agency has initiated this action in response to the President's declaration of a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b) related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The FMCSA notice is available here.
U.S. Canda-Mexico Borders Closed to Non-Essential Travel
On March 20, 2020, the U.S. agreed to restrict non-essential travel across the northern and southern borders with Canada and Mexico to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. "Non-essential" travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreation. Trade and business travel will continue to operate across the borders, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to process cargo shipments.
The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a fact sheet on measures being taken on the border to limit the further spread of coronavirus.
DHS Issues Essential Workforce Guidance
On March 19, the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) circulated a memo on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During Covid-19 Response. The list identifies industries, such as transportation and logistics, that are essential to the viability of critical infrastructure. The list is intended to guide jurisdictions considering COVID-19-related restrictions. The list is advisory, not a federal directive or standard.
Coronavirus Relief Bill Signed into Law and IRS Issues Guidance
On March 18, 2020, H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was signed into law. The emergency relief package bill includes paid sick and family and medical leave-related provisions that will impact employers. Employers will be reimbursed for the cost of providing the paid leave required by the legislation.
To assist employers and employees on knowing their responsibilities and rights under the Act, the Department of Labor (DOL) has released a series of questions and answers on the law. Additionally, the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the DOL released a memo on March 20, 2020, with key takeaways and information for businesses on how the law will be implemented.
COVID-19 Stimulus Expected to Pass by End-of-Week
Barring any last-minute holdups, Congress is expected to pass a $2 trillion economic stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, by the end of the week in response to the COVID-19 virus. A bipartisan deal was reportedly reached on March 25, 2020.
The final package is anticipated to include $1,200 individual payments to many Americans, $350 billion in aid to small businesses, $500 billion to back loans and assistance to companies with a portion set aside for state and local governments, and $150 billion for hospitals and other health-care providers for equipment and supplies.
Lawmakers expect additional stimulus and relief bills in response to COVID-19 to emerge in the coming weeks.
FMCSA Expands Emergency Declaration for Commercial Vehicles
On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an expanded national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
FMCSA expanded upon the original emergency declaration and now provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
- Immediate precursor raw materials—such as paper, plastic or alcohol—that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items.
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine.
- Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes.
- Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services.
Once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.
March 20, 2020 Update
COVID-19 Declared National Emergency
On March 13, the President declared the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak a national emergency. This move invokes powers under the Stafford Act, which allows substantially more federal aid to states and local governments in combating COVID-19 outbreaks across the U.S. The White House has also issued Coronavirus Guidelines for America.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. As of March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) is characterizing the virus as a pandemic.
OSHA Publishes COVID-19 Guidance for Workplaces
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 to help employers as they work to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on their businesses, workers, customers, and the public.
While the guidance is not a standard or regulation, OSHA is strongly encouraging employers to increase their preparedness, as there is a high level of uncertainty as to how the COVID-19 situation will develop or worsen.
Emergency FMCSA Action to Ease Hours of Service Requirements
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
FMCSA’s declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:
- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
- Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
- Food for emergency restocking of stores.
- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.
- Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.
Once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.
Publication of Self-Driving Car Rule Anticipate
On March 13, the Administration has finished its review of a forthcoming proposed rule on how to regulate cars without human controls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA rule is expected to amend crashworthiness regulations that may be necessary to facilitate the certification of motor vehicles equipped without driver controls.
NAFA is closely monitoring developments related to federal standards for AV technology. Hopefully, NHTSA’s proposal will impact AV development in a way that positively advances the safe testing and deployment of these technologies that have the potential to create a shift in the future of mobility.
March 5, 2020 Update
Senate Bill Introduced to Combat Transportation Workforce Shortages
A bipartisan group of senators announced
that they recently introduced S.3303
, the Promoting Service in Transportation Act
. The bill authorizes funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to create and carry out a 5-year public awareness campaign to highlight career opportunities in the transportation sector. The emphasis would be on jobs within the trucking, aviation and rail industries, and explicitly mentions raising awareness of the opportunities for mechanics, technicians, and truck drivers.
The sponsor of the legislation Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) said: “This bipartisan bill will help recruit pilots, drivers, technicians and service professionals throughout the transportation industry and build a diverse workforce with the skills needed to succeed in today’s economy.”
Given the adverse impact transportation workforce shortages are having on the fleets, especially in the case of commercial vehicle operators and those who service and maintain vehicles, this campaign would be a welcome initiative to demonstrate the viability of these kinds of careers to prospective employees.
February 19, 2020 Update
Transportation Department Issues Notice on CBD
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance released a notice
on February 18th
regarding the use of CBD products by DOT-regulated safety-sensitive employees.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act and allows hemp-derived products, such as CBD products, containing a concentration of up to 0.3% THC to not be classified not controlled substances.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently oversee or certify the THC concentration levels in CBD products on the market, and some have been found to contain higher levels than advertised on labeling. CBD products could result in a positive drug test result for marijuana, and DOT will not consider CBD product-use to be a legitimate medical explanation for safety-sensitive employees. Fleets should consider having policies in place to manage the risk associated with the use of these uncertified products.
The FDA maintains information on CBD products in a Consumer Update
Senators Trade Jabs Over Clean Energy-Related Tax Policies
A group of Democratic Senators, led by the Senate Finance Committee’s Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), recently sent a letter
to the Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) calling on him to take action on pending energy tax proposals related to climate change concerns. The group pointed to stagnant levels of emissions from many sectors and a lack of a committee hearing on energy tax policies in the prior or current session of Congress as evidence of inaction.
Senator Grassley replied to the group with a letter
of his own, in which he indicated that the Committee had taken action, via the formation of task forces to examine the temporary tax policies known as extenders, as well as the retroactive reinstatement of several of these incentives, such as the excise credit for biodiesel. Senator Grassley expressed that it was the fierce support from Democrats on an expansion of the electric vehicle (EV) tax credit that had slowed deliberations and that he would continue to look at long-term solutions for the pending temporary tax policies.
Congress Works on Additional Self-Driving Car Bill Sections
The House and Senate committees of jurisdiction have released the final seven sections for stakeholder review of forthcoming self-driving car legislation. These included provisions on cybersecurity, consumer education, inoperative controls, resources, staffing, crash data, and trucks. However, the committees have not released a section on the issue of whether a customer can sue if there’s a crash, which derailed the passage of the prior session of Congress’ autonomous vehicle (AV) bill, the AV START Act (S.1885
Federal standards for AV technology would have an enormous impact on the future of mobility, given the potential impact on the technology’s advancement and deployment. These developments will be of critical importance to fleet managers as they handle and adapt mobility strategies for their organizations.
February 12, 2020 Update
NAFA Comments on House Committee Hearing on Autonomous Vehicles
On February 11, 2020, the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Consumer Protection & Commerce held a hearing entitled, "Autonomous Vehicles: Promises and Challenges of Evolving Automotive Technologies.
" Members of the Subcommittee discussed issues currently under consideration as federal legislation related to self-driving car regulations is developed, including driver & passenger safety, testing & deployment, and cybersecurity.
In a statement
from Energy & Commerce Chairman, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), he said: "We are working on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to draft a self-driving car bill that will help ensure that these life-saving technologies are safely deployed."
NAFA submitted a statement
for the hearing's official record alongside members of the U.S. Vehicle Data Access Coalition urging Congress to establish standards for open vehicle-generated data access. Such measures are being considered among the realm of policy issues related to autonomous vehicles.
NAFA and its allies believe that "The rights of vehicle owners to control and access the data generated by their vehicles is too important to be left unaddressed by Congress. The Coalition supports bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislative efforts to establish a framework for securing the continued rights of vehicle owners – and entities that secure the express permission of vehicle owners -- to control and access vehicle generated data on a real-time, secure and competitive basis."
February 5, 2020 Update
NAFA January 2020 Legislative Tracker Summary
Several U.S. legislative and regulatory items were advanced at the end of 2019 and throughout January 2020.
Some of the major highlights were:
View the NAFA January 2020 Legislative Tracker Summary and Download the PDF
January 31, 2020 Update
- FY2020 Government Funding
- Reinstatement of Expired Fuel Tax Credits
- Release of a $769 Billion House Infrastructure Package Proposal
- Draft Privacy Legislation in the House
- USMCA Implementation Signed into Law
- Consideration of Clean Energy and Sustainability Proposals in the House
- EPA Action on Heavy-Duty Engine Standards
- FCC Rulemaking on Opening 5.9GHz Auto Safety Band Spectrum
Quick Updates End of January 2020
House Democrats Release Draft Framework
"On Jan. 29, House Democrats from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released the draft framework
for a 5-year $760 billion infrastructure package. The package includes $329 billion in funding for highways and highway safety. The current surface transportation law, the FAST Act, is set to expire this September.
The proposal also provides $34.3 billion in clean energy investments. This portion would include $1.25 billion for reauthorization of the EPA's Diesel Emissions Reductions Act (DERA) program, which provides grants to upgrade or replace older diesel engines and vehicles to reduce carbon pollution. Additionally, $1.5 billion would be invested in electric vehicle infrastructure to support the development of an electric vehicle charging network to assist the transition to zero-emissions vehicles.
The framework acknowledges that consensus on how to fund the proposed investments remains a challenge, with user-fee-related reforms and bond programs seen as viable options. In a related vein, the proposal will also authorize a multi-year national pilot program to test revenue collection to ensure the future viability and equity of surface transportation user fees, including a vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) fee.
The inclusion of this provision underlines an increasing interest from both sides of the aisle in testing the idea of a national VMT fee as an alternative to the excise tax on motor fuels. Ranking Member of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), said in a statement
on Jan. 27 that a recent report on Washington's state-level VMT pilot “clearly shows that transitioning to a VMT system is a more equitable way to charge drivers for the roads they use, and that we are in fact capable of beginning that transition now.”
NAFA supports the concept of testing the feasibility and ramifications of various roadway user-fee alternatives, such as through a national VMT pilot program, to ensure a sustainable source of funding for the federal highway program that is derived from users equitably.
View the Moving Forward Framework
View the Fact Sheet
Entry-Level Driver Training Rule Pushed Back
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published an interim rule
in the Federal Register on February 4th
, changing the compliance deadline for its rule on Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators (ELDT Rule) from February 7, 2020, to February 7, 2022. The FMCSA has said that State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) needed additional time to modify their IT systems and procedures to accommodate ELDT data.
CLEAN Future Act Draft Text Released
The House Energy & Commerce Committee released draft text
for its Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act on January 28th
. The CLEAN Future Act is a broad climate-focused bill, which is intended to put the U.S. on the path to a net-zero greenhouse gas economy by 2050.
USMCA Signed by President
On January 29th
, the President signed legislation (H.R.5430
) into law implementing a renegotiated North American free trade pact, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The Canadian Parliament will now consider the trilateral deal for ratification.
January 20, 2020 Update
IRS Issues Guidance on How to Claim Reinstated Fuel Tax Credits
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued guidance
claimants must follow to make a one-time claim for payment of the credits and payments allowable under §§ 6426(c), 6426(d), and 6427(e) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) for biodiesel (including renewable diesel) mixtures and alternative fuels sold or used during calendar years 2018 and 2019.
Congress recently reinstated the $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit retroactively through 2022, and the $0.50-per-gallon alternative fuels tax credit through 2020, as part of a year-end tax and spending deal. The deal also provides a credit for purchases made during the 2018 and 2019 tax years. The reinstatement of the tax credits was the result of a significant advocacy push from NAFA and allied organizations.
There is a 180-day claim period for 2018 - 2019 biodiesel and alternative fuel incentives, which begins on February 14, 2020. Claims must be filed on or before August 11, 2020
. The IRS is directing companies to submit both 2018 and 2019 claims on a single Form 8849
along with a completed Schedule 3: Certain Fuel Mixtures and the Alternative Fuel Credit.
NAFA recommends members consult with a qualified tax professional for assistance in filing claims. Questions may also be directed to the IRS at (202) 317-4718.
House Committee Moves Sustainability Focused Bills Forward
On January 9th
, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy Subcommittee held a markup
to pass several bills, which will now go to the full committee for consideration. Among the bills, three were of particular note for NAFA:
- H.R. 5518 would reauthorize the Energy Department’s Clean Cities Coalition Program to encourage the use of alternative fuels and vehicles at $50 million beginning in fiscal 2020. That level would increase to $100 million in fiscal 2024. NAFA was a part of a coalition letter (Coalition Letter Supporting HR 5518 Clean Cities Authorization) sent to members of the E&C Subcommittee on January 8th in support of the bill.
- H.R. 2906, the Clean Commute for Kids Act, would reauthorize and update the Clean School Bus Program. The Clean School Bus Program offers competitive grant funding for modernizing school bus fleets. The bill broadens grant eligibility criteria to include electric vehicles and provides prioritization for applicants seeking to acquire clean school buses with low or zero emissions. The program would be reauthorized at $50 million annually from FY 2020-2025.
- H.R. 5545, the New Opportunities to Expand Healthy Air Using Sustainable Transportation (NO EXHAUST) Act, would promote U.S. manufacture and use of advanced, fuel-efficient vehicles, and zero-emission vehicles. The bill would create a new program to provide rebates to offset the cost of purchasing and installing new EV charging stations. The bill also increases the percentage of alt fueled vehicles that federal agencies must acquire, sets minimum requirements for the percentage of alt fueled vehicles that must be zero-emission vehicles, increases the requirement for federal use of alt fuels, and includes a new requirement to reduce federal fleet greenhouse gas emissions.
NAFA Comments on Senate Data Privacy Proposals
With the debate on federal privacy data privacy standards escalating at the end of 2019, NAFA has been active in communicating with policymakers on the importance of access to certain vehicle-related data for fleet management. In December, Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) published his draft United States Consumer Data Privacy Act (USCDPA) and
Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has introduced her privacy bill S.2968
, the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA)
NAFA sent a letter to Chairman Wicker on January 6th
, and a letter to Ranking Member Cantwell on January 9th
commenting on their respective privacy standard proposals. Both proposals stand to address employee data and could negatively impact a fleet manager's ability to optimize their fleets’ processes. Vehicle-generated data, like telematics data, is an essential and useful resource for many fleets and their organizations. NAFA is working to preserve data access and give employers the flexibility to use that data while at the same time ensuring that employees are aware of transparent policies regarding data collection and use.
Clean Economy by 2050 Legislative Framework Circulated by House Members
House Energy and Commerce Democratic leadership released the legislative framework
on January 8th
for a broad bill that calls for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution no later than 2050, the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act
. The CLEAN Future Act will have an extensive title for transportation policies, which is expected to raise vehicle efficiency and emissions standards, as well as bolster EV charging infrastructure, DERA, and the Clean Cities Program. The legislative text of the draft should be released by the end of the month.
EPA Announces Rulemaking on Heavy-Duty Truck Emissions
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced
on January 6th
that the agency was releasing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
(ANPRM) to establish new, more stringent emission standards for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and other pollutants for heavy-duty engines through its Cleaner Trucks Initiative
. The EPA is seeking public input on its forthcoming rulemaking, which would implement the first revisions to the NOx emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks since January 2001. Additionally, the EPA has published a fact sheet
outlining its priorities and goals for the forthcoming notice of proposed rulemaking.
DOT Publishes AV 4.0 Guidance
On January 8th
, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao released the Automated Vehicles 4.0 (AV 4.0) Report
, guidance outlining how the federal government will be promoting unified federal rules across the various departments and agencies for the development of self-driving car technology. Secretary Chao voiced concerns over companies taking testing and development of AVs out of the U.S., due to the patchwork of state regulations governing the technology at present. At least 29 states already have some laws related to AVs, while federal AV legislation has failed to advance in Congress.
The administration’s guidance wants to foster AV testing in the U.S by seeking “performance-based” regulations, which are not overly prescriptive in their requirements on AV developers. Currently, companies that wish to develop AV’s are beholden to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and must apply for exemptions with NHTSA to test AV technologies.
NAFA supports the expansion of legislation and regulations on AV technology that ensures the safety of drivers and the public, while also encouraging the advancement of mobility options and potentially life-saving technologies.
Visit NAFA's Legislative Tracker for all Updates