Truck parking, equitable funding among OOIDA priorities for next highway bill

March 30, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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Tackling the truck parking crisis and maintaining an equitable funding source for the Highway Trust Fund are among OOIDA’s priorities for the next highway bill reauthorization.

On Tuesday, March 30, OOIDA sent a letter to the ranking members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, outlining the issues that matter the most to professional drivers. The current surface reauthorization bill expires in September.

The letter to the EPW focused on such issues as truck parking, truck size and weight, funding mechanisms, and auto transporters. OOIDA also will be reaching out to other committees to fight against such measures as speed limiters, an increase to the minimum insurance requirement, and a side underride guard mandate.

Truck parking

OOIDA has been working for years to address the truck parking crisis that has worsened since electronic logging devices became mandatory. With a ticking clock and a lack of safe parking places, truckers are often left in an unenviable position.

“If truckers are unable to find a safe and legal space, they are too often forced to either park in a hazardous location, such as a highway shoulder or vacant lot, or continue driving while they are possibly fatigued or in violation of safety regulations,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer wrote. “Not only do these no-win situations risk the safety of professional drivers, they also create dangers for motoring public.”

In order to lessen this burden on truck drivers, OOIDA is advocating for federal funding to be set aside for the exclusive purpose of expanding truck parking capacity.

On March 26, Rep. Mike Bost reintroduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. The nonpartisan bill requests $755 million be allocated for truck parking over five years.

“OOIDA has worked with our industry partners and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act,” Spencer wrote. “The bill has broad support among trucking, law enforcement, logistics, safety and highway user organizations. We encourage your committee to include this important proposal in your surface transportation reauthorization.”

Truck size and weight

OOIDA let the committee know that increasing the size and weight of trucks would diminish safety, further deteriorate highway conditions, and negatively affect small-business trucking companies.

“Various U.S. Department of Transportation studies have revealed crash involvement rates for vehicles configured with a sixth axle to carry 91,000 pounds were consistently higher than the rate for five-axle control trucks,” Spencer wrote.

OOIDA also is against efforts to allow longer combination trailers known as twin 33s. During a House hearing earlier this month, FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith touted twin 33s as a way to help the climate. However, OOIDA said the idea is more economically motivated.

“Allowing (twin 33s) on our roads would only benefit a handful of large corporate motor carriers but would have a negative impact on safety, infrastructure and the rest of the trucking industry,” Spencer wrote.

“At a time when Congress must address crumbling infrastructure and declining revenues to the Highway Trust Fund, you should not be taking steps that would make it more difficult to address these problems.”

Funding

OOIDA told the committee that professional drivers continue to favor the current user fee structure and prefer reasonable increases to the federal gas and diesel taxes.

“These user fees are the most equitable and efficient means for supporting the nation’s highway needs,” Spencer wrote.

OOIDA said there are many unanswered questions regarding the implementation of a vehicle-miles-traveled tax. The Association is especially opposed to any efforts to create a truck-only VMT tax.

OOIDA also opposes any federal expansion of tolling policies.

Auto transporters

The Association also continues its effort to clarify the federal definition of a traditional automobile transporter.

“In 2004, FHWA incorrectly required that to be considered a traditional automobile transporter, the power unit must be capable of carrying cargo,” Spencer wrote. “That interpretation isn’t support by legislative and regulatory history, and FHWA itself has no record as to why this change was made via agency guidance.” LL

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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.