MCTD reworks programs to address Highway Fund issues
(continued from page 3)
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Letter of Guidance regarding use of the Highway Fund identified several programs and activities at the Motor Carrier Transportation Division (MCTD) that cannot draw from the funds. MCTD is seeking legislation to resolve funding issues and let it continue certain programs, such as the International Fuel Tax Agree- ment (IFTA) program. The agency is also considering ending certain programs, including the Truck Safety Hotline.
The funding issue surrounding the IFTA program is one of the simplest to resolve because more than 4,000 Oregon carriers already pay a $150 annual fee to participate in the program. MCTD is now working to determine exactly how much it costs to run the program and it expects this annual fee will need to be increased to recover the full cost.
Under one bill introduced in this Legislative Session, Senate Bill 740, MCTD could conduct a rulemaking and set fees in administrative rules. Rather than a flat fee of $150, the new fees may vary based on a carrier’s fleet size, tax liability, and other appropriate factors, for ex- ample.
Funding issues surrounding certain safety and enforcement activities are turning out to be much more complicated to resolve. There’s no question that MCTD’s safety inspection work is an appropriate use of Highway Funds. Inspections have a direct effect on travel because they can lead to a vehicle or driver
The Motor Carrier News is a quarterly publication of the Oregon Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Transportation Division 550 Capitol Street NE Salem OR 97301-2530
Gregg Dal Ponte, Deputy Director Jim Brock, Motor Carrier News Editor (503) 373-1578
placed out-of-service. The compre- hensive safety compliance reviews done at carriers’ terminals can lead to carriers being shutdown if they get an unsatisfactory safety rating. With such a direct effect on vehicle travel, conducting safety inspections and compliance reviews is being considered an appropriate use of highway funds.
MCTD’s civil complaint process, on the other hand, doesn’t always have such a direct effect, and resolv- ing funding issues may take changes in statutes.
travel.” Under current law, carriers are suspended only after “repeated” violation.
As a result, legislators are being asked to consider Senate Bill 738, which would change statutes to add a one-day suspension of authority for any violation of regulations. MCTD could then modify its admin- istrative rules related to mitigation of penalties to allow for suspension of the one-day suspension for first- time offenders.
Such a fix in statutes would allow MCTD to continue the civil enforce-
What is a constitutional use of Highway Funds?
Article IX of the Oregon Constitution provides that revenues from motor vehicle taxes and fuel “shall be used exclusively for the construc- tion, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, operation and use of public highways, roads, streets and roadside rest areas in this state.” Taxes levied on commercial vehicles “may also be used for enforcement of commercial vehicle weight, size, load conformation and equipment regulation.”
The money may also be used to pay administrative costs and any refunds or credits authorized by law.
In one key 1989 Supreme Court case, Rogers v. Lane County, the court found that construction of an airport parking lot and covered walkway from the lot to the airport was not a constitutionally permis- sible use of Highway Funds. The project did not “primarily and directly facilitate motorized vehicle travel.”
The DOJ used the Rogers court ruling as the basis for its examination of more than 80 programs at DMV, MCTD, and other parts of ODOT to see if each was a permissible use of Highway Funds.
MCTD handles hundreds of complaint actions each year for all kinds of violations, including various safety violations like those found in safety compliance reviews, highway safety violations like operating an over-dimension truck and trailer combination without a permit, and other violations like operating without valid registration credentials (see list of enforcement actions on page 7). But because first- time offenders don’t face the threat of suspension of operating authority, this activity does not “primarily and directly facilitate motorized vehicle
ment process. Some other solution is needed, however, to continue MCTD’s regulation of shippers who send hazardous materials by truck and MCTD’s administration of the Truck Safety Hotline. MCTD may have to find a source of money that isn’t restricted by the Constitution. To continue the Hotline, MCTD could use Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program Funds if it could find a way to meet the federal requirement that it provide 20 percent in state matching dollars for grant funds used.
Motor Carrier News • March 2001