Truck-Involved Fatality Rate Declines 5.8 Percent In 2007
The legislation would allow the operation of trucks at a maximum gross weight of 97,000 pounds, provided the vehicle has at least six axels, including a tridem axel group with a weight limit of 51,000 pounds. Axle weight increase of up to 2,000 pounds are authorized at the state’s option. The heavier weight limit would be allowed only if approved by state legislature.
The bill increases the annual Heave Vehicle Use Tax for vehicles qualifying under the bill to a maximum of $800. Funds generated by the increase are dedicated to pay for bridge projects in stats that authorize the operation of heavier vehicles. The bill requires data on a safety and infrastructure impacts that result from the operation of vehicles to be reported to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, who has the authority to terminate the operation of the heavier trucks on any route where a safety problem is detected.
The legislation is supported by ATA and a number of carriers, shippers, and shipper organizations. Three coalitions supporting the bill held a Capitol Hill fly-in on April 1 to promote H.R. 1799.
Reprinted from ATA’s Federal Update
New Federal Law Offers Special Tax Break for Small Businesses
Provided by the IRS
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service urges small businesses to take advantage of tax-saving opportunities included in the new recovery law.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, enacted in February, create, extended or expanded a variety of business tax deductions and credits. Because some of these changes- the bonus depreciation and increased section 179 deduction, for example – are only available this year, eligible businesses only have a few months to take action and save on their taxes. Here is a quick rundown of some of the key provisions.
Faster Write-Offs for Certain Capital Expenditures
Many small businesses that invest in new property and equipment will be able to write off most or all of these purchases on their 2009 returns. The new law extends through 2009 the special 50 percent depreciation allowance, also known as bonus depreciation, and increased limits on the section 179 deduction, named for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code.
Normally, businesses recover these capital investments through annual depreciation deductions spread over several years. Both of these provisions encourage these investments by enabling businesses to write them off more quickly.
The bonus depreciation provision generally enables businesses to deduct half the cost of qualifying property in the year it is placed in service.
The section 179 deduction enables small businesses to deduct up to $250,000 of the cost of machinery, equipment, vehicles, furniture, and other qualifying property placed in service during 2009.
Without the new law, the limit would have dropped to $133,000. The existing $25,000 limit still applies to sport utility vehicles. A special phase-out provision effectively targets the section 179 deduction to small businesses and generally eliminates it for most larger businesses.
Bonus depreciation and the section 179 deduction are claimed on Form 4562. Further details are in the instructions for this form.
Expanded Net Operating Loss Carryback
Many small businesses that had expenses exceeding their incomes for 2008 can choose to carry those losses back for up to five years, instead of the usual two. For small businesses that were profitable in the past but lost money in 2008, this could mean a special tax refund.
The option is available for a small business that has no more that an average of $15 million in gross receipts over a three-year period.
This option is still available for most eligible taxpayers, but only for a limited time. A corporation that operates on a calendar-year basis, for example, must file a claim by Sept. 15. For eligible individuals, the deadline is Oct. 15.
Eligible individuals should files a claim using Form 1045, and corporations should use Form 1139. Details can be found in the instructions for each of these forms, and answers to frequently asked questions are posted on IRS.gov.
Exclusion of Gain on the Sale of Certain Small Business Stock
The new law provides an extra incentive for individuals who invest in small businesses. Investors in qualified small business stock can exclude 75 percent of the fain upon sale of the stock.
The increased exclusion applies only if the qualified small business stock is acquired after Feb 17, 2009, and before Jan. 1, 2011, and held for more than five years. For previously acquired stock, the exclusion rate remains at 50 percent in most cases.
Estimated Tax Requirement Modified
Many individual small business taxpayers may be able to defer, until the end of the year, paying a larger part of their 2009 tax obligations. For 2009, eligible individuals can make quarterly estimated tax payments equal to 90 percent of their 2008 tax, whichever is less.
Individuals qualify if they received more than half of their gross income from their small businesses in 2008 and meet other requirements. For details, see Publication 505.
Employers who provide the 65 percent COBRA premium subsidy under ARRA to eligible former employees claim credit for this subsidy on their quarterly or annual employment tax returns.
To help avoid imposing an unnecessary cash-flow burden, affected employers can reduce their employment tax deposits by the amount of the credit. For details, see Form 9412. Answers to frequently asked questions are posted on IRS.gov.
Other ARRA business provisions relate to discharges of certain business indebtedness, the holding period for S corporation built-in gains acceleration of certain business credits for corporations. Details are in Fact Sheet FS-2009-11 included with this release.
Evaluating What Changes to Expect with CSA 2010
Reprinted from the Alabama Trucking Association
Under a new safety program, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is changing the way it monitors motor carrier and driver safety fitness. No longer focusing only on high risk carriers, the agency’s new system, dubbed Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010), seeks to streamline the process by relying less on the compliance review (CR) system and focus on a broader number of carriers through information gathered at inspections and from accident reports.
The new system will monitor both trucking firms and drivers. The hops is to increase efficiency and effectiveness of federal government’s compliance and enforcement program and, in the process, reduce large commercial vehicle accidents, injuries and fatalities.
Jon McCormick, a Georgia-based state programs specialist for the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA), says the new system is expected to give his agency more flexibility and resources in detecting safety issues with certain companies and drivers before an actual accident happens. “We’re looking for trends,” he explains. “Every time we’ve introduced a new program, whether it was the compliance review system in 1986 or the current SafeStat system in 1999, there has been a reduction in the accident rate per million miles. Our goal for CSA 2010 is to drop the rate below two percent.”
McCormick explains that the current system is too connected to CRs, which are very labor intensive and can take about a week to complete. This causes the agency to monitor only a fraction of carriers.
According to the agency, “CSA 2010 is designed to help the FMCSA and its state affiliates affect a larger percentage of motor carriers and drivers by using a broader array of compliance interventions.” Key features of the program are increased contact with more carriers and drivers; the use of more and better data to improve performance measurements for identifying high risk behaviors; and the application of a wide range of interventions to correct these behaviors before they become chronic and habitual.
Under the new program, FMCSA will determine safety fitness without doing an on-site CR by examining behavioral indicators that can cause deadly accidents. The measurement system would group these behaviors into seven categories, called Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). These categories include: unsafe driving, driving while fatigued, driver fitness (determined by training, experience, or medical qualification), drug and alcohol test results, vehicle maintenance, loading/cargo securement and crash history.
Five inspections are required before a driver or company is scored in the CSA system. The data collected, scored and weighted based on its relationship to crash causation. And each entrant’s information is updated in the system every 30 days. Carriers and drivers will be able to access their profile online.
The system alerts FMCSA agents when they should intervene. Afterwards, an agent accesses whether the carrier or driver can “Continue to Operate,” is “Marginal” (with on going intervention) or is “Unfit to Operate.” There are several steps the agency follows to improve unsafe behavior. These include with increasing severity: a warning letter, targeted roadside inspection, off-site investigation, on-site investigation (focused), cooperative safety plan, notice of violation, on-site investigation (comprehensive), and notice of claim/settlement.
Since February, 2008, FMCSA has tested its CSA 2010 operation model (op-model) in Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey and Georgia. During the test, which is being administered in two phases, FMCSA officials will determine the effectiveness of the op-model in terms of safety impact and effect on state and federal resources.
According to a report released last fall by FMCSA, the op-model test demonstrated that a higher percentage of carriers were scrutinized in test states that with the current SafeStat system. According to FMCSA records, during the first six months, more that 2,100 carriers of the approximate 34,000 in the test states received at least a warming letter, targeted roadside inspection, off-site investigation, on-site investigation, cooperative safety plan, notice of violation, or notice of claim. Of the 2,100 that received some soft of intervention, about 1,800 received a warning letter alerting the carrier to potential safety issues within their operation. Under the current SafeStat system, these carriers more than likely would not have been contacted by FMCSA agents about their potential safety issues.
Most industry officials are please to see the federal government make a more balanced effort to scrutinize more carriers and drivers. However, there are those who have concerns as the program inches closer to implementation.
FMCSA will transfer the last 24 months of SafeStat records to the new system. MTA recommends that carriers check with their SafeStat number as soon as possible. Those with scores of 70 or above should begin immediately to work at reducing their score, with this system being implemented by 2010, there’s time to get those numbers corrected.
To check your company’s SafeStat number, visit www.safersys.org. For more information on CSA 2010, please visit www.fmcsa.dot.gove/csa2010.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced its revised policy regarding the assessment of maximum fines, becoming effective on April 1, 2009. This action was taken based on a Congressional mandate in the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 and subsequent recommendations of the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office. Under this updated policy, FMCSA will seek the maximum penalty where a motor carrier exhibits a pattern of violations. The agency will also apply penalties when one or more violations of critical or acute regulations are discovered in the same regulatory part during an investigation within six years of a previous enforcement case. Additionally, FMCSA has expanded the types of investigations that may trigger the assessment of the maximum civil penalties.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a final rule amending its regulations to require all surface freight forwarders to issue a receipt or bill of lading on each shipment for which they arrange transportation of freight by commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. This regulatory change implements amendments enacted in the ICC Termination Act of 1995 (ICCTA). While the current rule concerning receipts or bills of lading applies only to household goods freight forwarders, the new rules applies to both household goods and non-household goods freight forwarders.
Seat belt usage by drivers of medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles rose to 72 percent in 2008 according to a recently released study commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. There has been dramatic improvement since 2003 when a government study found that only 48 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were using their belts. The trucking industry, law enforcement, and the U.S. DOT have placed special emphasis on increasing the use of this essential protection by CMV drivers. More information on the CMV Safety Belt Partnership program can be found on FMCSA’s website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Ohio Trucking Association, News Briefs, June 17, 2009
According to a report in Transport Topics, Transportation Secretary said Mexican trucks could be allowed back on U.S. roads as soon as this month. The remarks were made at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington. Earlier this year, Congress put an end to a pilot program started under the Bush administration that allowed Mexican truckers to deliver goods beyond border commercial zones. The North American Free Trade Agreement required allowing trucks to deliver goods from their home countries to points inside the other NAFTA countries and to haul other goods back to their country. These trucks are prohibited from making point-to-point deliveries within the U.S. Since Congress voted to stop the program, Mexico enacted more than $2 billion in tariffs on U.S. products.
Caltrux, June 2009
WASHINGTON D.C. – Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Olympia J. Snow (R-ME), Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) have recently introduced legislation that would close a well-known loophole in the commercial driving industry that currently enables drug and alcohol abusers to get behind the wheel of a large truck or bus.
The senators said despite drug and alcohol testing requirements for commercials drivers, truckers can continue to drive 18-wheelers and buses even after testing positive. Factors that contribute to this problem include applicants who do not report their drug testing history to new employers, carriers who do not fully complete background checks and self-employed drivers who fail to remove themselves from service. Data shows that between 1.3% and 2.8% of drivers test positive for the presence of illegal drugs under random testing. Every year, approximately 5,500 fatalities, and 160,000 injuries result from large trucks and buses.
“I don’t want my family sharing the road with truck and bus drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I’m sure others feel the same way. We must change the status quo to ensure these drivers can’t skirt the law.” Pryor said. “A national clearinghouse is a cost-effective, feasible solution to weed out bad apples and keep our roads safe.”
“This legislation will finally close the current loophole that allows irresponsible individuals to tarnish the good name of motor carrier operators,” said Senator Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over transportation issues. “Giving companies the ability to ensure that all operators adhere to basic safety standards is common sense initiative that will dramatically improve the safety of American roads and highways.”
“Creating a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse is a sensible approach to promote safe roads for both commercial and non-commercial drivers,” said Senator Nelson. “This legislation gives trucking companies the confidence that they are putting safe drivers on the road to the benefit of those traveling out nation’s highways.”
“Developing a centralized database for positive drug and alcohol test results will help give employers across the country the tools they need to ensure they aren’t putting drivers with substance abuse problems on our roads,” Sen. Wicker said. “This is a feasible, common-sense approach to improving highway safety.”
The Safe Roads Act would implement a recommendation from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to establish a cost-effective, feasible database of drug testing information for commercial drivers. Specifically, it would authorize $5 million annually to develop and deploy the database and clearinghouse; require medical review officers, employers and other service agents to report positive results from drug or alcohol tests to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; and require employers to check the database prior to hiring prospective employees. The bill also provides for privacy protections and employee rights of action.
Maine Motor Transport, June 2009