Several ‘pro-trucker’ highway bill amendments offered

June 25, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The House Rules Committee will meet next week to determine which amendments to the INVEST in America Act will be considered on the House floor.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which is opposed to the House highway bill in its current form, is busy advocating for amendments that strip “anti-trucker provisions” from the bill while also working to keep out any new measures that would be harmful to small-business truckers.

Among the amendments OOIDA supports are calls to remove provisions to increase motor carriers’ minimum insurance requirement, to expand ELD data use, and to mandate automatic emergency braking. Additional amendments OOIDA supports would crack down on staged collisions targeting commercial motor vehicles, clarify the definition of auto transporters, and eliminate language regarding obstructive sleep apnea screenings.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet about the highway bill on Monday, June 28, and Tuesday, June 29.

ELD data use

The current version of the INVEST in America Act would allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to begin using ELDs for transportation research. Opposed to the ELD mandate in general, OOIDA is concerned about what doors could open if ELD use is expanded.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is proposing an amendment to strike the ELD data use expansion measure from the bill.

“It’s great that committee members like Rep. Cheney, who helped us battle the ELD mandate, haven’t forgotten about the issue and are still eager to fight for truckers’ best interests,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs. “Her amendment to prevent the expanded use of ELD data is one we strongly support.”

Current law prohibits the use of ELDs for anything other than monitoring hours of service.

Although some have suggested expanding the use of ELD data to monitor how much time a truck driver is kept in detention, others have eyed using the devices as a way to implement a vehicle-miles-traveled tax on heavy-duty trucks.

In May, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, suggested using a truck-only VMT as the way to fund the nation’s infrastructure. Cornyn went as far to suggest a 25-cent-per-mile fee on most Class 7 and Class 8 trucks.

Minimum insurance increase

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., will take another crack at removing from the bill a measure that would increase motor carriers’ minimum insurance from $750,000 to $2 million.

Earlier this month, Bost proposed eliminating the insurance minimum increase during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup hearing.

Bost, who was raised in a trucking family, said the increase was unnecessary and that it would serve as a punishment to the nation’s truckers.

“Over the past year during the time of this pandemic we’ve relied pretty hard on the working people who drive trucks across the nation,” Bost said. “These men and women continue their essential work by stocking store shelves and making sure food was put on everyone’s table, and (getting us) the supplies we needed while many of us were trapped in our homes. Now, after praising these individuals for their great work, this legislation turns around and punishes them.”

In spite of more than 30 minutes of debate – largely in favor of the amendment – the T&I Committee stuck mostly to party lines, rejecting Bost’s amendment by a recorded vote of 38-30.

OOIDA has called the 167% increase on motor carriers the bill’s “poison pill” and strongly supports Bost’s amendment to remove it.

Automatic emergency braking system mandate

The current highway bill would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to prescribe standards for newly manufactured heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles to be equipped with an automatic emergency braking system and to require that the system be in use during operation.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., is offering an amendment to remove the mandate.

OOIDA supports the amendment as the Association says the measure makes the devices required before the technology is ready.

“This technology is not quite perfected yet,” Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, said recently on Land Line Now. “We still see a lot of errors and problems with it. A rushed mandate is certainly not the direction we think things should be going in terms of safety.”

Staged collision crackdown

News of a sweeping conspiracy in Louisiana to stage crashes with commercial motor vehicles in hopes of bilking motor carriers and their insurers out of personal injury settlements has caught the attention of lawmakers.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., offers an amendment proposing stiff fines and prison sentences for those who intentionally cause a crash with a commercial motor vehicle. Under the amendment, a person operating a motor vehicle who intentionally causes a crash with a CMV would be imprisoned for no less than 20 years.

OOIDA supports the amendment. In addition, Long said the amendment is receiving bipartisan support and is likely to make it into the bill.

Auto transporter definition

For years, OOIDA has worked to get the Federal Highway Administration to clarify its definition of automobile transporters.

Since 2015, OOIDA has been asking FHWA to fix regulatory guidance that has cost some auto transporters hundreds of dollars in fines. OOIDA contends the regulatory guidance is not backed up by federal law.

“Certain employees of the FHWA continue to assert that the agency has always required a power unit to be capable of carrying cargo to be considered a conventional automobile transporter,” wrote Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs. “This is demonstrably false.”

OOIDA contends that Congress authorized auto transporters to carry automobiles on the power unit but did not require it.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., is proposing an amendment that would clarify the definition.

Sleep apnea screening

The current bill includes a measure that would require the FMCSA to initiate a rulemaking to establish screening criteria for obstructive sleep apnea among commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Perry’s amendment would eliminate the measure.

OOIDA contends that there is insufficient data to link sleep apnea to an increase in crashes and that any steps taken toward a screening mandate would place an unnecessary burden on truck drivers.

INVEST in America Act

The highway bill is expected to reach the House floor next week.

OOIDA said the bill in its current form is an “anti-trucker disgrace” and lauded the lawmakers who are proposing “pro-trucker” amendments.

“When you look at these amendments, I hope truckers notice there is a growing list of elected officials who routinely go to bat for them,” Long said. “Representatives like Mike Bost, Garret Graves, Scott Perry, Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Liz Cheney have demonstrated they are consistent supporters of small-business truckers.” LL

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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.