Detailing the infrastructure bill and its impact on trucking

November 18, 2021

SJ Munoz

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How will the infrastructure bill affect the trucking industry?

Live From Exit 24” host Mike Matousek, OOIDA President Todd Spencer, OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh and Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs explained on the Nov. 17 show.

“It was supposed to be done a year ago,” Long said. “By and large, the biggest positive thing for truckers is that robust investment in infrastructure over the next five years from the highway bill and over the next 10 years from the bipartisan infrastructure package. You’ll certainly see a lot of projects advance and roads and bridges being brought up to a state of good repair.”

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And that’s good news for truckers, who can speak to the need for an improved infrastructure.

“It’s about time, this is something that’s been sorely needed for a long time,” Spencer said. “It’s not fun when you hear about a major bridge over a large body of water that’s been shut down because it’s got big cracks in it. That’s not good news and can really change your route plans. I’m happy that Congress finally got off the dime and did something.”

Pugh was in lockstep with Spencer about the need for major improvements.

“Our roads have been in terrible disrepair and there’s not enough pavement capacity,” Pugh said. “Anything to alleviate traffic congestion everyone should be happy about and welcome. Hopefully some of this money they’ll spend to put some parking out there for trucks. I’ve heard that’s a problem.”

The funding component is also viewed as a win, Long said.

“This doesn’t reach directly into the pockets of truckers to take money out to pay for this,” Long said. “From where we were standing a year ago, that’s certainly a success for us.”

Underride guards are a hot topic among the numerous issues related to this legislation.

“There are interest groups where people have been involved in crashes where they run into the side of trailers,” Spencer said. “Those kind of crashes don’t happen often, but they do happen. For a lot longer, there’s been crashes where people run into the backs of trailers, and those happen with a lot greater frequency. There’s lots of factors that go into that. Oftentimes, speed variants and things like speed limiters play a role in that. We’ve always been proponents of doing everything you can to make the end of a trailer more forgiving. When it comes to the side stuff, it’s a little different deal with all the places trucks have to go.”

On several occasions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency responsible for developing these rules, has determined they aren’t worth the investment, Long said.

“This is what happens when Congress allows trucking policy to be written or dictated by folks who don’t make their living behind the wheel, folks who don’t manufacture trucks and trailer equipment and folks who generally just don’t have a really understanding of the challenges of trucking.”

As for the question of why no parking was included in the bill.

“The Senate probably wanted to push through a bill that there was virtually no opposition to any provisions,” Spencer said. “There are opponents of the kind of parking we have been pushing for. The biggest one is Natso, which represents truck stop operators. They don’t want any public parking for trucks. They want parking at truck stops. They have a voice in Washington D.C., and there’s probably a truck stop in every congressional district in the country.”

Bringing the National Consumer Complaint Database up to speed is another emphasis in the bill.

“FMCSA and the Department of Transportation finally realized it isn’t functioning in the manner it’s supposed to,” Long said. “There’s a lack of attention and a lack of resources for it. The bill requires there to be an analysis of it … and take steps to address it.”

Spencer drew a comparison to the Truck Safety Hotline, but he hopes they “do it right this time.”

If done correctly, this could highlight some of the problems in the industry, Pugh said.

“We all know lease-purchase is a cancer to this industry,” Pugh said. “This could show how being leased to a carrier works. A lot of people get those terms confused, especially if you’re not familiar with trucking or somebody from Capitol Hill. It has the potential of being a good thing.”

There’s some good and some bad in the bill, but getting something done was seen as a positive.

“I’m glad it finally got done,” Spencer said. “There’s lots of stuff in there we’re not so keen on, but we need roads, we need bridges – Congress do something.”

OOIDA talk show

“Live From Exit 24” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Central every other Wednesday. Listeners can tune in to the show on the “Live From Exit 24” website, OOIDA Facebook page or on OOIDA’s YouTube channel. The next episode airs Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Survey

“Live From Exit 24” launched as a way to expand OOIDA’s communication with members and to hear directly from drivers across the industry. OOIDA is asking for truck drivers to fill out a survey to let the Association know how you are liking the show so far. Help guide what’s addressed during the program. The survey is here. LL

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SJ Munoz is the newest edition to the Land Line Media team. He brings a variety of skills to the job as he has experience as a reporter, photographer and in radio. He’s also written for Omaha Magazine, the Lawrence Journal-World, and PrepsKC.com.