Senate passes infrastructure bill; OOIDA frustrated by exclusion of truck parking funding

August 10, 2021

Mark Schremmer

|

A bipartisan infrastructure bill moved closer to the finish line as the Senate passed the $1 trillion package with a vote of 69-30 on Tuesday, Aug. 10. However, it could still be a while before a bill is signed into law.

The bill advances to the House, which is in recess until Sept. 20. In addition, it has been reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not vote on the package until the Senate passes a separate $3.5 billion social spending plan.

The $1 trillion Senate infrastructure package includes $550 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, airports, ports, electric vehicle charging stations, internet, water systems, and other infrastructure needs. About $110 billion would go specifically toward roads and bridges. The bipartisan infrastructure package incorporates the Senate version of the highway bill.

No truck parking funding

Senators’ version of the highway bill excludes the “poison pill” measure to increase motor carriers’ minimum insurance requirement from $750,000 to $2 million, but the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association remains frustrated that an amendment to fund truck parking failed to make it into the package.

“Given how critical drivers are to our nation’s supply chain, it is extremely frustrating to see lawmakers continue to treat truckers as an afterthought,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “Truckers are routinely expected to simply be thankful for more highway funding and accept the fact all their unique needs are ignored time and time again.

“Years of inaction on addressing the lack of truck parking has created a nationwide crisis that threatens the safety of millions of professional drivers, and increasingly the motoring public.”

Last week, Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., introduced a bipartisan amendment that would have ensured that states used federal funding for the expansion of truck parking capacity. Specifically, the amendment would have required that at least 0.7% of the funding from the National Highway Performance Program be used for truck parking projects. The amendment was estimated to dedicate more than $1 billion to truck parking over the duration of the legislation.

 Land Line reported on Monday, Aug. 9 that the truck parking amendment did not make it into the Senate bill.

“By failing to include the Kelly and Lummis amendment, the Senate has missed yet another opportunity to enact meaningful policies that would immediately improve drivers’ lives and highway safety,” Spencer said. “This should have been a bipartisan slam dunk. Instead, the continued lack of action has demonstrated to America’s truckers that, despite all their hard work keeping the country safe and supplied throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they largely remain an afterthought in the Senate.”

OOIDA said the omission forced the organization to oppose the Senate bill.

“The lack of dedicated funding to address the truck parking crisis is a major reason OOIDA could not support the bill,” Spencer said. “And we will continue to oppose surface transportation legislation that doesn’t prioritize the needs of professional drivers.”

Although it opposes the Senate bill because of the lack of truck parking funding, OOIDA has consistently favored the plan over the House version, which the Association referred to as an “anti-trucker disgrace.” Although the House highway bill dedicated $1 billion to truck parking funding, it would have increased truckers’ minimum insurance by 167%.

OOIDA said it will continue to monitor the bill as it advances to the House, where further action is expected this fall.

The Association also said it will continue its fight to secure truck parking funding.

“Truckers often tell us that with a few exceptions, lawmakers don’t give a damn about their interests, and, frankly, the Senate has proven their point by not accepting the Kelly and Lummis amendment,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs.

“This is no doubt a major setback. Our team in Washington has been working on this issue for years and felt we were finally on the verge of a breakthrough. We’re just as frustrated and disappointed as the truckers who were hoping for a victory on parking in this bill, but we’re not defeated. We’re going to continue to push this issue anyway we can until Congress delivers results.” LL

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.