OOIDA says it will seek public funding in next highway bill reauthorization
Legislation to improve truck parking capacity that is likely to die in the current Congress will be a priority once the new one convenes in January, a major owner-operator group has confirmed.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which worked to get bipartisan truck parking legislation introduced in March incorporated into a major infrastructure package passed by the House of Representatives in July, will likely see both efforts come up short as no action on either bill is expected by the end of the year.
However, “the parking issue is one that we’ve been fighting for years, and we’ll continue to push for that in the next highway bill or any standalone legislative opportunity as well,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh told FreightWaves.
The legislation introduced in March would have provided $755 million over the next five years to build new spaces for truck parking or convert existing weigh stations and rest stops.
The proposal, which had the support of the American Trucking Associations, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies and the Truckload Carriers Association, was watered down after getting folded into the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, which allocated just $250 million for fiscal year 2023.
“Our plan had been to build on that during negotiations with the House and Senate on a highway bill reauthorization – we wanted it over a longer period of time and for more money,” Pugh said. However, reauthorization of the current bill, known as the FAST Act, is not likely to happen before the bill expires at the end of September and therefore is expected to be extended for up to one year.
NATSO, which represents truck stop operators and travel plazas, has tended to oppose public funding for truck parking, especially at public rest areas that are allowed to sell amenities such as food and fuel that compete directly with private truck stops.
The association contends that carriers need to prioritize truck parking in their contract negotiations similar to how they negotiate for fuel.
“We need to change the thinking on behalf of trucking companies [so] that this is an issue that they care about enough to make it part of their negotiations,” according to NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings, speaking at a recent transportation planning workshop. “They will move to another fuel location over a half a cent price difference in a gallon of fuel. Surveys show truck parking is important to them, but we haven’t seen that in their negotiations.”
In addition to truck parking legislation, OOIDA has urged Congress to refrain from including increases in motor carriers’ existing insurance liability coverage in the next surface transportation reauthorization. The infrastructure package that passed in July had included a provision to hike truckers’ insurance coverage from $750,000 to $2 million.
“An increase in insurance requirements is both unnecessary and impractical with the result having little to do with improving highway safety,” OOIDA stressed in a Sept. 8 letter to lawmakers. “Furthermore, the addition of these requirements would negatively impact a wide range of industries that are crucial to our states and the nation.”