House Republicans unveil $400 billion Starter Act proposal

May 20, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have released their proposal for a highway bill that would authorize $400 billion over five years for surface transportation programs.

The Starter Act 2.0 would focus on “core infrastructure,” such as roads and bridges, according to a news release from Rep. Sam Graves, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A section-by-section summary of the proposal can be found here.

GOP’s proposed investment would be a 32% increase from 2015’s FAST Act, which expires on Sept. 30. House Democrats are expected to unveil their version of the highway bill in early June.

“Republicans want to work together on bipartisan infrastructure solutions, but in order to reach that goal, key principles must be addressed in this process,” Graves said in a news release. “The Starter Act 2.0 puts forward our Republican principles, provides historic levels of funding for our roads, bridges and other surface transportation infrastructure, and ensures that we invest those funds wisely and efficiently.”

For truckers, one key aspect of the proposal is what was left out. The Starter Act 2.0 does not include any measures to increase motor carriers’ minimum liability insurance. Last year’s version of a highway bill proposed by House Democrats would have increased the minimum insurance from $750,000 to $2 million.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association commended House Republicans for rejecting any such increase. A year ago, OOIDA dubbed the measure the “poison pill,” contending that it would force many small motor carriers out of business.

“Republican members of the T&I Committee clearly understand how destructive an unnecessary increase to insurance requirements would be for any industry engaged in or reliant upon trucking,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “A highway bill is supposed to spur economic growth, not jeopardize countless small businesses and blue collar jobs. We encourage House Democrats to take the same approach as Republican counterparts on this issue and reject any increase.”

Several mandates left out

The Republican proposal also does not include several other measures OOIDA opposes, such as mandates for automatic emergency braking, side and front underride guards, and sleep apnea screenings.

The Starter Act 2.0 includes language establishing a competitive grant program for the expansion of truck parking capacity. However, OOIDA said it doesn’t go far enough as the bill fails to provide dedicated funding for truck parking projects.

OOIDA also was critical of the proposal’s inclusion of a measure that would allow drivers as young as 18 to operate long haul. 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.