By now, everyone has read about the Unified Carrier Registration Board’s (UCR’s) agreement to grant the UCR fee exemption for intrastate school buses requested by the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) in December. Beginning in 2019, independent school bus contractors will be eligible for intrastate fee exemptions that other motor carriers have received for years.
Achieving fairness in fees charged to motor carriers is certainly big news. But, the bigger story is about how the collaborative efforts of school bus contractors and their trade associations helped regulators in Washington, D.C., better understand an issue they had decided differently a year earlier.
In 2017, the intrastate fee exemption issue was presented to the UCR Board by a single contractor faced with paying significant UCR fees for the majority of its fleet that would never cross state lines. At that time, the request from one contractor was denied, even though all school bus contractors were similarly affected and other motor carriers received intrastate fee exemptions.
In 2018, many member contractors brought the issue to NSTA, who amassed other school bus contractors affected by the decision. Twenty-five trade associations at the national, state, and regional level joined in NSTA’s request that the UCR Board reconsider the issue. The team assembled by NSTA revisited the arguments presented and collected additional facts and arguments in support. Equally important was the UCR Board’s willingness to reconsider the additional facts and arguments presented by the school bus industry coalition, led by NSTA’s advocacy team.
By unanimous vote of the UCR Board, the fee exemption was granted to be effective beginning in the 2019 UCR registration year. This is a huge advocacy win for the for-hire school bus contractor industry that demonstrates the importance of unified action and open-minded government regulation.
The school bus industry came together on this issue and the savings to each contractor in 2019, and each year after, will far exceed the cost of joining and participating in school bus trade associations that advocate for the industry. While you work every day to keep drivers behind the wheel and vehicles on the road, events in Washington, D.C., may seem far away and unimportant. But, it really is true that “all politics is local” when federal laws and regulations can affect your bottom line. NSTA heard from many school bus contractors who were faced with discontinuing trips due to the cost of UCR fees on their entire fleet. While those contractors tended to the daily needs of the students and parents that rely on the big yellow bus each day, NSTA assembled advocates and spoke on their behalf in a significant and meaningful way that affected the bottom line of their business locally.
More information about the UCR fee exemption is available from NSTA by phone at (703) 684-3200 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The NSTA team has fielded questions from school bus contractors about UCR fee collection notices received from state agencies and from third parties, and can help with your questions.
NSTA thanks the members and associations that supported the UCR fee exemption effort and asks those school bus contractors who have not yet joined NSTA to consider joining in 2019. The value of membership has never been greater or more important.