House advances infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk

November 8, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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After months of delay, Congress has finally gotten a highway/infrastructure bill to the finish line.

On Friday, Nov. 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by a vote of 228-206. The $1 trillion infrastructure package was passed by the Senate in August and includes a new five-year surface transportation reauthorization, which provides nearly $570 billion to the U.S. Department of Transportation. President Joe Biden plans to sign the bill into law later this month.

The plan “will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind,” according to a White House statement.

The legislation will reauthorize surface transportation programs for five years and invest $110 billion in additional funding to repair roads and bridges, as well as other projects.

“(It’s) the single largest investment in repairing and reconstructing our nation’s bridges since the construction of the interstate highway system,” the White House said. “It will rebuild the most economically significant bridges in the country, as well as thousands of smaller bridges.”

Trucking provisions

On Nov. 8, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association notified its more than 150,000 members about the bill and provided a summary of trucking provisions.

OOIDA did not endorse the bill, mainly because lawmakers again failed to include any measures to address the truck parking crisis.

“The legislation marks another missed opportunity for lawmakers to help truckers who have been delivering for the American people through the pandemic,” OOIDA wrote. “Given how critical drivers are to the nation’s supply chain, it is frustrating to see Congress continue to treat truckers as an afterthought especially when it comes to expanding truck parking capacity. We are disappointed neither chamber has shown any ability to pass highway bills truckers can enthusiastically support.”

The highway bills proposed this session were a bit of pick your poison for truck drivers. The original House version of the highway bill included a provision for $1 billion over five years for a grant program to address the truck parking shortage. However, the House version also included a measure to increase motor carriers’ minimum insurance requirement from $750,000 to $2 million. Although OOIDA was pleased to see the commitment to truck parking, the Association opposed the bill because of the insurance hike. OOIDA dubbed the insurance increase the bill’s poison pill. The bill passed the House but went nowhere in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s bipartisan bill left out the insurance increase but did nothing to address the truck parking crisis.

“On a positive note, the legislation does not increase minimum insurance levels and will invest hundreds of billions for roads, highways and bridges,” OOIDA wrote. “The legislation does not contain other harmful proposals like personal conveyance limits, sleep apnea screening requirements, returning CSA scores to public view, speed limiters, and expanded use of personal ELD data.

“While Congress again failed to deliver for truckers, your engagement with lawmakers certainly helped prevent this legislation from being worse than it was.”

An overview of the bill can be found here. LL

TBS

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.