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Year in Review 2019: Transportation

The Competitive Enterprise Institute had a busy year in the transportation policy trenches. We worked at the federal, state, and local levels on a variety of projects. Below are selected examples of the work we did this year to inject free-market ideas into the often command-and-control world of transportation policy.

Providing Testimony to Congress

In 2019, I testified three times before Congress on highway financing, airport financing, and traffic congestion management:

CEI followed up on these testimonies by releasing two whitepapers on needed federal reforms to highway and airport financing. On airport financing, bipartisan legislation (H.R. 3791) was introduced making our recommended reforms, which we supported with a coalition letter. An additional whitepaper on reforming federal highway policy to improve and expand opportunities for road pricing is forthcoming in 2020. Surface transportation reauthorization by Congress is due by the end of September 2020 and we will continue promoting these pro-market reforms in the home stretch.

Advancing Sound Automated Vehicle Policy

In July, CEI published the fourth annual edition of its popular handbook for state legislators on how to authorize automated vehicle platooning. At publication time, 20 states had reformed their motor vehicle codes along the lines we recommended. CEI will continue in this effort until every state has adopted the recommendations. We will publish the fifth annual handbook in July 2020.

In September, our friends at the James Madison Institute in Florida published my in-depth interview with Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). Among other positive contributions to the legislature, Sen. Brandes has been guiding Florida’s light-touch automated vehicle policy efforts for several years and is widely and deservedly seen as one of the most forward-looking legislators in the country.

The states continue to enact automated vehicle policies—good and bad—and were hoping for more guidance from the Uniform Law Commission. In July, the ULC published its model legislation on automated vehicles. The ULC uniform act significantly improves upon a draft from two years ago, but still contained flaws. We cautioned state legislators against enacting the ULC’s policy in its entirety until improvements were made.

While the previous Congress failed to pass comprehensive national automated vehicle legislation we had supported, we continue to work with relevant parties to advance new federal legislation in 2020.

Odds and Ends

  • In January, CEI submitted comments to the Federal Highway Administration urging rescission of a 103-year-old rule that had the negative effect of preventing use of cheaper, safer road construction technologies. The rule was rescinded in September.
  • Also in January, CEI submitted comments to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation urging better adherence to the Department of Transportation’s stated position of “technology neutrality” as it relates to vehicle-to-everything communications.
  • In February, CEI submitted a statement for the record to the Maryland Senate Finance Committee warning it that it was considering unlawful legislation on freight train crew sizes that the federal government preempts. In withdrawing a proposed rule in May, the Federal Railroad Administration emphasized that federal law clearly preempts the state crew size laws, following years of CEI pressure on the agency to withdraw the arbitrary and capricious proposed federal regulation on crew size minimums.
  • In April, CEI submitted comments to the Surface Transportation Board supporting a petition for rulemaking that would require the Surface Transportation Board to conduct benefit/cost analysis prior to promulgating any major rules. Benefit/cost analysis of economically significant rules has long been required of cabinet department agencies, but as an independent agency, such basic practices are not required of the Surface Transportation Board.
  • In May, CEI submitted a statement for the record to the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce urging the committee to focus on the biggest auto safety hazards facing children, rather than comparatively rare headline-grabbing tragedies, when considering policy alternatives.
  • In October, CEI submitted comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration largely supporting the agency’s proposed reforms to hours-of-service truck driver regulations, while highlighting a few areas in need of additional improvement.