The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a highway reauthorization bill that includes a provision to raise trucking insurance liability from $750,000 to $2 million, mandates automatic braking on new trucks and increases scrutiny of truck dispatch services.
The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act, which passed the chamber largely along party lines by a vote of 221 to 201, faces the significant hurdle of getting approval in the Senate, which has yet to pass its own surface transportation bill.
The House bill includes $547 billion to reauthorize surface transportation programs within the Department of Transportation over five years, a $53 billion increase over the previous five-year authorization known as the FAST Act. It includes $343 billion for highways, bridges and road safety and $95 billion for passenger and freight rail.
Republicans claimed Democrats packed the legislation with too much “nontraditional” infrastructure, over-relied on debt financing to pay for it and ignored input from the other side of the aisle.
“The extreme partisan policies throughout the [Democrats’] ‘My Way or the Highway Bill’ aren’t going to get the support needed to pass the Senate, so the Majority has wasted another year on yet another messaging bill instead of working on a strong bipartisan proposal we can take to conference with the Senate,” commented House T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves, R-Missouri, after the bill passed.
In addition to the insurance premium increase and an automatic emergency braking mandate, the bill included other provisions opposed by small business truckers: more screening requirements for obstructive sleep apnea; a move toward a requirement for side underride guards on trucks; restrictions on the use of a truck for personal conveyance; and the use of electronic logging device data for transportation research.
Republicans on the T&I committee, with support from the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, had attempted to exclude the provisions while the bill was being considered by the committee earlier this month but failed.
“We’re extremely disappointed our efforts to improve the legislation for truckers were flatly rejected by committee Democrats, but many of the most problematic provisions that remain in the bill are simply too controversial to gather sufficient support in the Senate,” commented OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer.
American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear, on the other hand, considered passage of the bill “a significant step toward enacting the kind of comprehensive infrastructure package our nation needs” due to the amount of funding authorized in the bill.
“We encourage the Senate to advance companion legislation this summer, and ATA will support these critical investments while working to improve upon it throughout the legislative process,” Spear said.
Aside from greater attention paid to electric vehicles and EV infrastructure – charging stations would be allowed to be located on the interstate highway right-of-way, including at rest areas – the bill was largely identical to the bill that passed last year but expired before making it through the Senate.
One provision added this year: a requirement that the Department of Transportation issue guidance to clarify the definitions of the terms “broker” and “bona fide agents.” It would also require the DOT secretary to:
- Examine the role of a dispatch service in the transportation industry.
- Examine the extent to which dispatch services could be considered brokers or bona fide agents.
- Clarify the level of financial penalties for unauthorized brokerage activities.
The provision, as previously reported by FreightWaves, is backed by the Transportation Intermediaries Association, which filed a related petition last year currently under review at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
One provision included in the bill supported by the trucking industry: $1 billion in federal funds over the next four years dedicated to expanding truck parking.
The bill also included close to 1,500 “member-designated projects” – formerly known as earmarks – with funding levels of up to $20 million, submitted by lawmakers for projects within their districts, 20 of which are designated as “multimodal” facilities.
- Truck broker guidance, ELD data research rolled into highway bill
- Republicans spotlight bridge repair in $400B highway bill
- Republicans to White House: Limit infrastructure spending to roads and bridges
Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.
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We as a nation have apparently lost touch with reality of hard work. More controls / more cost cannot be the answer. How many are aware of the day to day obstacles that impact industry. With regard to trucking, Our nation is not aligned with those realities the trucking industry faces, let alone the countless differences that exist between the many varieties of transportation. It is not as simple as it has been made out to be, with those outside of the industry unable to understand them, let alone legislate them. If WE wish to have a healthy trucking industry, it ought to be done so by the industry – ensuring the diverse nature has influence over their respective part of the industry. Take any issue facing trucking, the obstacles stem from those who see only a part.
Damn democrats at it again! I’m just going to sit back and watch, because I know it’s going to blow up in their face!
Thing to think about for the Independent trucker that survive the aftermath… this would mean shipment cost will increase for the larger companies and independent trucker. There will be an increase for shipment demands for both Independent and company truckers. The Independent trucker can set there own price for shipments. The government has not considered an alternatives for shipments. Trains and aircraft will be backlog beyond belief and it will take trucks to ship item within the citys. The only problem I can see for the Trucking industry and the country is the dollar will decrease more as usual.
I hope any four wheeler that causes an accident with a big truck and is proven at fault is sird for two millioeberdon dollars cause they’re setting truck owners up for that!
This is to the mega carriers benefit, as they do not participate in the open insurance markets, as they are self insured. This will stop many from opening up a trucking company, it will simply be too cost prohibitive. I know with the rates I have been quoted to reinstate my authority are ridiculous to say the least. Twenty thousand dollars a year for cargo and liability here in Michigan? Then throw in the cost of fuel, maintenance and all of the other day to day costs out here, it is simply not worth it.
The one rule change I would like to see is the independent contractor designation. It should not be acceptable to pay a company driver with a 1099. That is theft on many levels, not only to the unsuspecting driver, but also to us out here that do play by the rules and pay our drivers accordingly with the taxes taken out. I am leased to a trucking company and own my own rig, and am paid with a 1099, as I should be. Our office workers and dispatch are also located here in Michigan and pay payroll taxes, offer benefits and so on. This is unlike the outfit down the road with the vacant lot with 50 trucks that has their owners, office personnel and dispatch in Macedonia or Bosnia. They have no skin in this game like the outfit I am currently leased to. How is this even legal, much less acceptable!?! And we are expected to compete with this? Seriously? They fly under the radar and we foot the bills. This is the BS that needs to be stopped.
If we are going to punish anyone in this industry, let’s start with the White Volvo Mafia that runs their operations from Europe and India, make them have a real presence here in the USA, require them to pay payroll taxes and make it illegal to pay a simple truck driver with a 1099. I would also require these drivers to be citizens, no more Visa holders. I remember when the transportation industry was considered vital to national security and defense. We have no idea who are driving these trucks, hell, most cannot even speak or read English! WTF?
See how they like it when loads of freight are sitting on the loading docks and America comes to a crawl if not damn near a stop! They’re gonna have to learn the hard way! One thing is for sure, JB Hunt & Swift nor Schneider can get it all!
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