The American Camp Association (ACA) is pleased to announce that today, December 18, 2015, President Barak Obama signed the Omnibus federal spending bill — HR 2029 containing a change in law pertaining to interstate transportation. The change specifically exempts camps from certain commercial regulations when operating 9-15 passenger vans:
United States Code
Title 49 – Transportation
Subtitle IV – Interstate Transportation
Part B – Motor Carriers, Water Carriers, Brokers and Freight Forwarders
Chapter – 135 Jurisdiction
Subchapter I – Motor Carrier Transportation
§ 13506. Miscellaneous motor carrier transportation exemptions:
- IN GENERAL.—Neither the Secretary nor the Board has jurisdiction under this part over—
(16) the transportation of passengers by 9-15 passenger motor vehicles operated by youth or family camps that provide recreational
or educational activities (This is the new exemption added to the law.)
Included in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) funding portion of the Omnibus bill was the American Camp Association-supported language exempting camps from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) commercial regulations when providing transportation in 9-15 passenger vans across state lines as an ancillary activity to operating a camp. With the new exemption, camp operators will be able to continue to pursue practices such as picking up and dropping off campers and staff at in-state and out-of-state airports, crossing state lines on day trips or trips to the store or the doctor, and combining camp and passenger van transportation with air transportation packages — all without needing to apply for and receive FMCSA operating authority. Further, when leasing seasonal 9-15 passenger vans, camp operators will not have to accept compliance with FMCSA’s spotty commercial regulations as a requirement under a leasing agreement.
Without the exemption, the FMSCA’s commercial regulations, which if carried to extremes could include requirements for providing reasonable rates and adequate service to the general public even though camp operators do not serve the general public as transporters, are a vestige of federal oversight dating back to the 1930s.
As a leader in camp safety, ACA specifically avoided confronting the FMCSA’s safety regulations or enforcement, instead focusing only on the outdated commercial regulations that were inconsistently enforced and not relevant to today’s camp operators nor safety.
In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Division Administrator, Maine Division Office, informed Maine camp operators utilizing 9 to 15 passenger vans for transporting passengers across state lines as ancillary business activity that the camp operators were for-hire transporters and must comply with the Commercial Motor Vehicle regulations under 49 CFR Parts 365 and 387. These regulations are different from the FMCSA’s safety regulations with which the American Camp Association does not call into question.
Maine Summer Camps and the American Camp Association, New England reached out to ACA for support. ACA investigated whether this was an isolated issue found only in the state of Maine. Other than one situation in New Hampshire, federal officials in other states ACA polled said that the regulations were not applicable. However, upon discussions with FMCSA’s Washington, DC headquarters, they backed the division official in Maine primarily because the agency wishes to use the operating authority requirement as a means of identifying camp operators utilizing 9-15 passenger vehicles. They also implied that the regulation would soon be enforced across the country.
Although Congress provided FMCSA with authority to regulate interstate passenger transportation, Congress also indicated that it expected FMCSA to use discretion in applying commercial regulation and enforcement, including exempting “transportation by motor vehicle provided casually, occasionally, but not as a regular occupation or business.” The regulations date back to the mid-1980s, but have never been enforced until the federal official in Maine chose to do so.
Advocacy Actions Taken
The ACA Board of Directors approved the pursuit of changing this law as they saw the potential for FMCSA to apply this regulation across the country. The issue at hand was that under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) interpretation, a camp operator providing transportation as an ancillary service to operating the camp was subject to liability under the FMCSA’s commercial regulations as though it were a for-hire, commercial motorcoach operator just like Greyhound Bus Lines, Inc. or Trailways, Inc.
With advice from Maine Summer Camps and ACA, New England, ACA directed its public policy staff to focus on this issue and also hired expert help in Washington, D.C. to support the efforts. Ice Miller Strategies was chosen to assist as they had significant experience in federal transportation issues. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, along with staff on the THUD Committee, were instrumental in advancing our issue. She provided her leadership to include a specific exemption for camps in the THUD Appropriations bill. ACA mobilized members and camps, and all along the process, camps in Maine and across the nation took an active role in advocating for a change in this federal law.
- ACA will monitor and pursue the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to ensure implementation of the new exemption. We anticipate that it will take a few months to carry out the legislative requirement.
- Please take a few minutes to thank Senator Collins and her staff for their leadership and help on this matter. It's quick and easy and we have a template thank you letter for you to edit.
Special Thank You
Many hands made this legislative exemption for camps possible. The American Camp Association would like to thank the following individuals for their exceptional assistance and leadership:
- Senator Susan Collins, Maine
- Clayton Heil, Esq. and Thomas Lynch, Esq., Ice Miller Strategies
- Heideh Shahmoradi, Clerk, Senate THUD Appropriations; and Rajat Mathur, Professional Staff, Senate THUD Appropriations
- Jack Erler, Esq. Curtis Thaxter, Attorneys at Law
- Ronald Hall, Maine Summer Camps
- Steve Sudduth, President and Bette Bussel, Executive Director, ACA, New England
Photo courtesy of Tom Sawyer Camps, California.