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We got infrastructure! Now what?

Funding for important programs, as well as initiatives to improve trucking included in bill

On Friday, Nov. 5, Congress finally put the long-awaited Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) up for a vote. The bill passed at nearly midnight by a margin of 22 votes, the final tally coming to 228-206. President Biden urged the House to pass the infrastructure bill after weeks of negotiation within the Democratic party by saying “Send the IIJA to my desk, send Build Back Better to the Senate. Let’s build on incredible economic progress. Build on what we’ve already done. And this will be such a boost when it occurs.”

When Saturday morning rolled around, everyone relying on the benefits coming from the massive IIJA shared the president’s enthusiasm. A signing ceremony took place at the White House on Monday, and the whole country, particularly the trucking industry, is immediately looking forward to the bill’s benefits, which include both classic infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges and more progressive projects such as building electric vehicle charging stations.

The formula for the allocation of funds is relatively set in stone: beneficiaries will receive their set amount of funding which is divvied up by certain factors such as population, miles of public road, or disproportionally poor infrastructure conditions. Also included in the massive bill are several funding initiatives for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and broader Department of Transportation (DOT) programs. The most notable of these programs are meant to influence supply chain issues in the ports and over the road. This fresh infrastructure bill also reauthorizes the surface transportation programs through the year 2026, perhaps the biggest win for long-haul trucking in the entire bill.

More treats for trucking included in the bill include but are not limited to an investment in the Highway Trust Fund, a $1 billion per year chunk of funding for “nationally significant freight and highway projects,” regional transportation DOT grants, and several FMCSA outreach programs. Expanding the driver pool has been a major issue for the trucking industry and TCA is more than enthused that the federal government is finally recognizing this.

A win in Washington is not always just about what makes it into the final language of a piece of legislation, but often what is left out is even more important, especially in massive bills like the IIJA. In this case, language on the PRO Act was left out of the infrastructure bill, protecting the sacred independent contractor model that has functioned as a crucial part of the truckload industry for decades. Any PRO Act language included in the IIJA would have jeopardized a business practice that has a long history of success in our industry.

Allocating funds to America’s infrastructure is something that has been in the making for quite some time and it is refreshing to finally see the results of this time-intensive project. When the bill fully becomes law on Monday, the funding begins. Construction on roads, bridges, and crucial programs will be set into motion with completion the next few years, while some reauthorized programs at DOT level have been extended up to five years. Not only are all these funding extensions great for the industry, but they also give us room to breathe and to focus on other important issues which currently occupy our collective minds.

As since the beginning of this multi-year process to get an infrastructure bill passed, TCA proudly supports the signing and implementation of the IIJA. The benefits it will bring to the trucking industry are plentiful. With a bolstered Highway Trust Fund, programs to increase the driver pool, and the lack of PRO Act language, this win-win bill has two thumbs up from TCA.

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