Connecticut diesel fuel taxes climb second year in a row

From CT Mirror.

Truck drivers and other motorists who buy diesel fuel in Connecticut began paying an extra 2.6 cents per gallon this week — their second increase in two summers.

The Department of Revenue Services set the new rate on July 1 at 46.5 cents per gallon, up from 43.9 cents one year ago and from 41.7 cents in 2017.

The new rate is still down more than eight cents from 2013, when the diesel tax peaked at 54.9 cents per gallon.

Connecticut adjusts the diesel rate annually following a complicated formula enacted by the legislature in 2008. The principal factor used to calculate the new rate involves an analysis of wholesale prices for diesel fuel and regular gasoline during the prior 12 months.

The head of the state’s largest trucking association said the tax increase over the past two years is a concern.

“Right now the diesel tax is significantly higher than the (regular) per-gallon gasoline tax,” said Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, which represents more than 800 trucking and trucking-related businesses. “Members have noticed that.”

See the complete article from CT Mirror online.

Gasoline taxes are on the rise — just not in Connecticut

From CT Mirror.

Connecticut motorists haven’t faced a gasoline tax increase in six years and only two in the past 12. …

“The gasoline tax simply does not provide the reliable revenue we need, period,” Lamont said when he made his first pitch for tolls back in February. “Gasoline tax revenues have been flat for 10 years and are expected to begin declining as cars become more efficient, and as the sales of electric vehicles increase.”

But Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut — the state’s largest trucking association — said Connecticut’s poor track record with fuel tax receipts explains why it isn’t following the example of other states when it comes to raising gas taxes or installing tolls.

Between 2006 and 2014, about $1.3 billion in receipts from Connecticut’s wholesale fuel tax was spent on non-transportation programs.

Voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution in 2018 creating a legal “lockbox” designed to ensure fuel tax receipts are not diverted for transportation, but Sculley said skeptics of this supposed safeguard are plentiful.

“In many other states, motor fuel taxes are specifically earmarked for roads and bridges,” Sculley said, adding that many people believe “we have no such guarantee in Connecticut.”

See the complete article from CT Mirror online.

White House likely to send USMCA trade deal to Congress after Sept. 1, sources say

From CNBC.

The White House plans to send its replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement to Congress after Sept. 1, setting up a vote by the end of the year, sources told CNBC.

The White House could submit the bill to Congress as soon as this week to start the approval process. House Democrats are meeting in working groups to hammer out issues with the existing agreement.

But the White House and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative disagree over how aggressive a strategy to pursue in getting the deal through Congress, a senior administration official and two senior GOP aides said.

President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short want to pressure majority House Democrats with a deadline so they cannot run out the clock on ratifying the deal. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has suggested that giving Democrats more time to consider it.

Despite those differences, the White House and USTR agree the Trump administration could benefit from another month to sell the deal to members of Congress unsure about supporting it.

See the complete article from CNBC online.

In Waterford, I-395 Southbound closures July 19 – 29

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is announcing that activities related to The Rehabilitation of Bridge No. 00255, I-395 over Route 85 in the town of Waterford are expected to cause significant delays. The work is tentatively scheduled to occur during the following period: Friday, July 19 through Monday, July 29.

Motorists are advised to avoid the impacted area during the 10-day timeframe.

Lane Closures

I-395 Southbound at Exit 2

Closure and detour is scheduled to occur between 6:00 pm on Friday, July 19, 2019 and 6:00 pm on Monday, July 29, 2019. I-395 Southbound traffic will be detoured off mainline I-395 at Exit 2. Traffic will travel across Route 85 to Exit 2 on ramp and back onto I-395 Southbound.  The intersection will be signalized with police assistance.

I-395 Northbound will not be affected during this timeframe.

Be advised

  • Signs will be posted to help guide you.
  • Work will be occurring 24 hours a day throughout the closure period.
  • Route 85 traffic will also be significantly impacted but will remain open in both directions controlled by a traffic signal at I-395 SB Exit 2 off and on ramp. 

Maps of planned closures and detours

I-395 Southbound detour route at the bridge…

I-395 Southbound diversion route prior to construction site…

I-395 & Route 85 diversion routes…

 

 

Connecticut diesel tax increases July 1

Under Connecticut law, the per gallon diesel tax may be adjusted up or down effective July 1 of every year, depending on a couple of factors. This year, the rate will increase to 46.5 cents per gallon.

The state diesel tax rate is comprised of two components. One is a base rate of 29 cents per gallon. The second component is calculated annually and is based upon the average wholesale price per gallon of diesel fuel from the period of April 1 through March 30, plus the applicable gross receipts tax rate on petroleum products. The combination of these factors has resulted in the announcement by the Commissioner of Revenue Services that the per gallon diesel tax rate will increase by 2.6 cents per gallon, to 46.5 cents per gallon, effective July 1.

Brake Safety Week is Sept. 15-21

From CVSA.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Brake Safety Week is scheduled for Sept. 15-22. Throughout that week, enforcement officials will conduct roadside safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles throughout North America. Vehicles with critical brake violations, or other critical vehicle inspection item violations, will be restricted from traveling until those violations are corrected. Vehicles without critical vehicle inspection item violations are eligible to receive a CVSA decal indicating that the vehicle passed inspection.

During this year’s Brake Safety Week, inspectors will be paying special attention to brake hoses/tubing. While checking these brake system components is always part of the North American Standard Inspection Program, CVSA is highlighting brake hoses/tubing as a reminder of their importance to vehicle mechanical fitness and safety.

Routine brake system inspections and component replacement are vital to the safety of commercial motor vehicles. The brake systems on commercial motor vehicles are comprised of components that work together to slow and stop the vehicle and brake hoses/tubing are essential for the proper operation of those systems. Brake hoses/tubing must be properly attached, undamaged, without leaks and appropriately flexible. Brake hoses/tubing are an important part of the braking system so when they do fail, they can cause problems for the rest of the braking system.

See the complete release from CVSA online.

Lamont threatens to clamp down on borrowing if tolls not approved

From CT Mirror.

Gov. Ned Lamont threatened Wednesday to clamp down on state borrowing if legislators can’t agree in special session this summer on a plan to toll Connecticut’s major highways.

The governor, who made his comments during and after the State Bond Commission meeting, also said he’d consider shifting more borrowing capacity away from non-transportation initiatives to support Connecticut’s highways, bridges and rail lines.

“If that’s the case, we’re going to have to be very selective about what we do going forward,” Lamont said during the meeting.

“We cannot afford to do a lot of these other items if we put all that money into transportation,” he added afterward.

Lamont, who pledged during the campaign to support tolling only on large trucks, reversed himself in February and has since pressed for tolls on all vehicles to repair Connecticut’s aging, overcrowded infrastructure.

See the complete article from CT Mirror online.

Republicans criticize Democrats for changing tax projections

From CT News Junkie.

Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano held a press conference Tuesday to complain that the two-year $43.35 billion budget, which Gov. Ned Lamont received yesterday, increased projected tax receipts beyond consensus revenue.

Consensus revenue was passed a decade ago to make sure the governor’s Office of Policy and Management and the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis agreed on the revenue figures they would use to put together a budget. The legislation that requires them to do that was passed in 2009 when then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell failed to recognize the full extent of the budget deficit. Every year since then the consensus revenue figures are agreed to three times a year by the two branches of government — on Nov. 10, Jan. 15 and April 30.

On Tuesday, Fasano said the budget the General Assembly sent to Lamont earlier this month contains $180 million more revenue over the next two years than anticipated by the April 30 consensus revenue figures.

OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw said that’s because they anticipated an increase in the withholding portion of the personal income tax. The consensus revenue estimate anticipated a 4% increase, but the budget assumes a 5.5% increase.

See the complete article from CT News Junkie online.

Connecticut Legislature recap for 2019 session

Below is a summary of some of the major legislative issues that MTAC worked on in 2019. Contact Joe Sculley directly if you have any questions on these, or any other legislative or regulatory issues.

Tolls

MTAC has been leading the fight against efforts to establish congestion-price tolls on existing interstate highways, which has never been done by any state in the U.S. Tolling legislation did pass the Transportation Committee and the Finance Committee, as it did in past years, but it did not pass the House of Representatives or the Senate. There is talk of a special legislative session for the purpose of transportation funding, and more specifically, for voting to approve tolls. A specific date has not been set at this time. Just because there are calls for a legislative session to vote for tolls, does not necessarily mean that it is guaranteed to happen.

Earlier this year, a number of MTAC members sat down to talk about the costs and negative impacts that tolls would place on their businesses. The video produced from the conversations had that day is posted on YouTube and has been shared with every member of the legislature. Feel free to view the video once again, share with anyone, and post on your social media accounts.

$10 Towing Surcharge: Raised Bill 866

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified in opposition to a bill that would add a $10 surcharge on to the cost of a non-consensual tow, which in theory would be used to reimburse towers for the cost of abandoned vehicles involved in non-consensual tows.

The bill was an attempt to circumvent the regulation of rates for non-consensual tows. The regulation of non-consensual tows is an important aspect of consumer protection for both individuals and small businesses who own and operate vehicles. Without this, towers have been known to charge tens of thousands of dollars for non-consensual tows and subsequent storage. It should be noted that this type of situation is sometimes the cause of an abandoned vehicle, whether it be a passenger vehicle, or commercial motor vehicle or commercial trailer.

This bill died in the Transportation Committee.

GPS Mandate: HB 5365

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified in opposition to a bill that would require truck-specific GPS devices to be in use on all trucks with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds.

Sculley’s testimony said the bill was likely introduced in response to trucks driving through no-through truck zones in certain municipalities. He said that MTAC has met with state and local leaders in certain municipalities where violations of no through truck restrictions have occurred. MTAC has urged that local law enforcement (as well as any state enforcement agency with proper jurisdiction) enforce any alleged violation of no through truck restrictions which are authorized by state law. Town leaders have plainly stated to MTAC that they will not do that. MTAC questioned how a GPS mandate would be enforced, considering that a no through truck restriction is not able to be enforced.

This bill died in the Transportation Committee.

Age Discrimination: HB 6113

MTAC President Joe Sculley submitted testimony in response to a bill which would prohibit employers from inquiring about the date of birth on employment applications.

The testimony explained that federal regulation (49 CFR 391.21) requires that employers ask applicants for commercial truck driving jobs about their date of birth.

MTAC requested that the bill be amended to include a provision which recognizes this federal regulation, and exempts any employer who is subject to this requirement from the proposed prohibition on date of birth inquiry.

The bill was subsequently amended to allow for a date of birth inquiry “in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need.” The bill was going to be further amended with stronger language which would have said that the prohibition “shall not apply to any employer requesting or requiring such information based on a bona fide occupational qualification or need, or when such information is required in order to comply with any provision of federal or state law,” but the bill was ultimately not taken up by the House of Representatives.

Rest Areas: SB 713 An Act Concerning Open Rest Areas

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified in support of a bill which would fully fund Connecticut’s state-owned rest areas.

Sculley explained that funding has been cut so that the rest areas are only staffed from 8:30am to 3:30pm. The buildings are locked at all other times, and there is no staff around. However, truck drivers need to take breaks at all hours of the day in order to comply with federal Hours of Service regulations. Full funding for state-owned rest areas so that they are all staffed 24 hours per day is important for the trucking industry. He pointed out that at the time the funding for rest areas was cut, news reports stated that it would save the state $2 million per year, but based on this year’s budget figures, that amount is only 0.1% of the Special Transportation Fund budget.

MTAC has been told that the money to fully fund rest areas was included in ConnDOT’s agency budget, meaning that the rest areas should return to full operation.

Connecticut Infrastructure Bank: SB 70

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified on a bill which would create a Connecticut Infrastructure Bank.

Sculley explained that MTAC is not necessarily opposed to the concept of an Infrastructure Bank. However, he suggested that the issue should be studied further before the legislature votes to create the proposed Bank.

Sculley said that the proposal would “finance a loan program with funds appropriated from the Special Transportation Fund or other sources of revenue designated for infrastructure improvements,” and he pointed out that the recently-enacted Constitutional lockbox requires that transportation revenue be deposited into the Special Transportation Fund.

The bill was amended in the Senate to (in theory) address concerns regarding the transportation lockbox. However, it was pointed out by some legislators that the legislature can still change the law regarding what funds are deposited into the Special Transportation Fund (the lockbox). Additionally, the proposed Infrastructure Bank would be “raid-able,” much like the Green Bank, to which Infrastructure Bank proponents often compare it.

This bill ultimately died because it was never taken up by the House of Representatives.

Truck Dealer Registrations: HB 6771

During the legislative session, MTAC had representatives from dealer members testify before the Transportation Committee in support of HB 6771, which would allow commercial truck dealers to process registrations for new CMVs weighing up to 80,000 pounds.

Jim Rizzo from Gabrielli Trucks said, in part, “Currently, we are only allowed to issue registrations and transfer plates for commercial vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of up to and including 26,000 lbs. Vehicles above this capacity rating require the same documentation. What dealers are seeking, through the passage of this bill, is the ability to issue registrations and transfer plates for commercial vehicles above the 26,000 lb. GVWR and up to the maximum GVWR of 80,000 lbs. which would include straight trucks and tractors.

Luis Tejada from Freightliner of Hartford said, in part, “Since the bulk of our sales involve vehicles over this weight class, all of our current Motor Vehicle transactions must be done in person at any of the Connecticut DMV branches. I can’t tell you the man hours this task requires on a regular basis.”

The bill did not ultimately advance. CT DMV says that legislation is not necessary to accomplish this change, it can be done administratively. MTAC looks forward to the opportunity to work with CT DMV to work towards this change.

Motor Carrier Eligibility for State Contracts

MTAC has been pushing for legislation that would address the arbitrary standard used by CT DMV for evaluating current or prospective motor carriers who have or are pursuing state contracts. The current standard is not based on anything in statute, or regulation, or Executive Oder.

A provision was included in SB 924 which states: “The Commissioners of Administrative Services and Motor Vehicles shall jointly study the current system used to evaluate motor carriers that provide or seek to provide commercial motor vehicle services to the state or any municipality and make recommendations to make such system more efficient. Not later than January 1, 2020, the commissioners shall submit a report of the results of such study to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to transportation, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes.”

MTAC will attempt to work with all appropriate state agencies as this issue is studied, in order to work towards a more reasonable standard.

Marijuana — Raised Bill 1089 An Act Concerning Cannabis and the Workplace

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. The testimony stated that MTAC is not necessarily opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana. However, Commercial Driver’s License holders operating Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) are required by federal regulation to be tested for controlled substances (drugs and alcohol), per 49 CFR Part 382 – CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES AND ALCOHOL USE AND TESTING. This will still be the case even if Connecticut legalizes recreational marijuana.

The testimony suggested that the legislation refer to federal regulations and provide protection for the employer who complies as required. Employers should not be penalized by the state in any way if they are forced to take action against an employee for simply acting in accordance with federal regulations.

Marijuana legalization legislation did not pass this year, but will likely be debated again in the future.

Wine Shipments to Consumers

One section of SB 647, known as “An Act Streamlining the Liquor Control Act,” deals with reports to be filed by common carriers regarding their deliveries to consumers in Connecticut of packages containing wine. MTAC was heavily involved in working to make sure the language of that particular section was something that was workable for the common carriers.

The result of Section 11 of the bill is that the shipper must properly label the package as containing alcohol; the carriers will retain records of such deliveries for no more than 18 months; the common carriers shall file reports regarding such deliveries when requested by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection or the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services; there are no financial penalties imposed on the common carriers, other than a potential suspension or revocation of their in-state transporter’s permit in the event that a common carrier “fails to keep records, refuses to respond or fails to provide such records to the requesting agency as required.”

SB 647 has been passed and signed into law.

Vaping Legislation: HB 7200

HB 7200 did many things, including raising the legal smoking (and vaping) age to 21 years old. The bill, which was passed and signed into law, contains a provision mandating that a signature of someone who is 21 years of age or older be obtained when vaping products ordered online are delivered to a consumer. MTAC was involved with crafting this provision to be sure it was something that was workable for carriers who may be involved with making deliveries of such products.

Wilson Elser seminar covers required sexual harassment prevention training

A new law passed this year by the Connecticut General Assembly mandates sexual harassment prevention training for nearly every employer in the state. The new law requires that businesses with three or more employees provide sexual harassment prevention training to every employee.

MTAC is pleased to announce that our partner, the Wilson Elser law firm, will conduct a training class which covers this issue free of charge at the MTAC building on July 18 from 10 a.m. to Noon.

The training class will cover what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, what to do if you experience or witness harassment, the potential penalties if the company or supervisor are found liable of harassment, and strategies to prevent harassment in the workplace. The training will also touch on harassment related to other protected characteristics like race, color, age, religion, or disability to name a few.

Business owners, CEOs, HR managers, and supervisors are some of the people who should consider attending this class. The bottom line is that not knowing what sexual harassment is or how to deal with it exposes employers to potential litigation and supervisors to individual liability.

Attend this class in order to learn the basics on how to ensure your business has an appropriate workplace culture that is free of any type of harassment.

Training to be presented by:

Register for the class on the MTAC website.