Highway bill to invest nearly $500 billion over five years

June 3, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Peter DeFazio, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released on Wednesday, June 3, the text of a highway bill that would authorize nearly $500 billion over five years to tackle the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Specifically, the $494 billion investment would use $319 billion toward highway investments with the rest toward transit, vehicle safety, and rail. The House Ways and Means Committee is charged with proposing a plan to pay for the bill.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is co-sponsored by Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chair Dan Lipinski. Much of the bill is similar to the framework of a proposal House Democrats unveiled in January.

The full text of the highway bill can be found here.

“The bulk of our nation’s infrastructure – our roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems, the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day – is not only badly outdated. In many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back,” DeFazio said in a news release. “Yet for decades, Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls for an overhaul and instead simply poured money into short-term patches. The result? We’re still running our economy on an inefficient, 1950s-era system that costs Americans increasingly more time and money while making the transportation sector the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution.”

OOIDA said it supports several provisions in the bill, including increased funding for highway construction; $250 million for truck parking projects; new restrictions on tolling; provisions to limit excessive detention time and predatory lease-to-own schemes; and further analysis on H-1B visa use within the trucking industry.

“Our efforts to shape trucking policies in this proposal have been largely successful,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said. “We’ve worked very closely with the chairman to ensure this bill addresses some of the top priorities of truckers while making certain it doesn’t include several policies that would hurt small trucking businesses. I think there’s a lot to like about this bill if you’re an OOIDA member, but some aspects will need to be improved.”

The T&I Committee will consider the INVEST in America Act at a markup meeting scheduled for June 17. The current surface transportation authorization expires Sept. 30.

Title IV of the summary of the bill deals with motor carrier safety. Within Title IV is a subsection titled “Driver Safety.” This part of the bill aims to move forward with entry-level driver, as well as fight against egregious lease-purchase agreements and excessive detention time.

Under ‘Driver Safety,’ the highway bill:

  • Requires the secretary to report on delays with the implementation of entry-level driver training.
  • Applies commercial driver licensing requirements to vehicles carrying nine to15 passengers.
  • Creates a Truck Leasing Task Force to examine lease and lease-purchase agreements commonly made available to truck drivers and the impacts of these captive leases on driver pay.
  • Requires the secretary to collect and use data on driver detention to determine the link between detention and safety outcomes.
  • Requires the secretary to evaluate the effects of exemptions before finalizing changes to hours-of-service rules and establishes stronger reporting requirements for carriers utilizing exemptions.

Title IV also addresses CSA and requirements for commercial motor vehicles.

  • Directs the secretary to complete the revisions required by the FAST Act to its carrier oversight and intervention model, to prioritize reinstating the public display of safety data and to finalize a safety fitness determination rule to rate the safety of carriers.
  • Directs the secretary to complete a rulemaking to require Automatic Emergency Braking systems in newly manufactured commercial motor vehicles.
  • Directs the secretary to strengthen rear underride guard standards in newly manufactured trailers and semitrailers, to further research and consider the feasibility, benefits and costs associated with installing side underride guards and creates an Advisory Committee on Underride Protection.

OOIDA takes particular issue with the provisions that would return CSA scores to public view “before the system has been perfected.” OOIDA also opposes provisions to further legitimize oral fluids testing and to delay FMCSA’s hours-of-service final rule.

What may be just as important to truckers is what is not in the bill.

The initial bill does not include mandates for speed limiters or side underride guards, an increase in weight limits, an increase in minimum insurance requirements, or the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would move toward allowing 18-year-olds to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

OOIDA said it will work to keep those provisions out of the highway bill. The Association said it is prepared to protect the meaningful provisions already included in the bill and will work to improve some problematic elements. OOIDA also said it will aggressively oppose adding any harmful amendments that may be offered when the committee has its markup meeting later this month.

“We’re still very early in the development of this bill, but all things considered we’re in pretty good shape, especially compared to previous reauthorization proposals,” Spencer said. “We’ll continue to work closely with Chairman DeFazio and members of the committee to make this the best bill possible for truckers. We’ll also fight to make sure any poison bills – like a speed limiter mandate or increase to minimum insurance requirements – don’t find their way into this bill during committee consideration or on the House floor.”

OOIDA also plans to solicit feedback from its members to see what they like and dislike about the highway bill.

“Tell us what you like, what you don’t like and where the bill needs to be improved,” Spencer said.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.