Truck parking funding denied by House infrastructure committee

September 14, 2021

Tyson Fisher

|

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee denied an amendment to include funding for truck parking during a markup hearing for the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a markup hearing for its portion of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. With the original bill excluding truck parking, Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., introduced an amendment that would have allocated $1 billion specifically for truck parking. However, the amendment was voted down.

Rep. Bost’s amendment would have provided $1 billion over the next five years for projects that would have increase truck parking capacity. In order to pay for Bost’s amendment, it would have taken $1 billion of the $3 billion allocated for the Federal Highway Administration’s grants for carbon reduction projects that is also in the overall $3.5 trillion bill.

“Over the past year, truck drivers have been working around the clock,” Bost said. “They have been driving day and night to make sure food and supplies make it to grocery stores or put on shelves. Unfortunately, the (reconciliation) bill does not include funding for truck parking. This is a missed opportunity.”

Democrats slam brakes on truck parking amendment

Sitting in for Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., opposed the amendment. Stanton resisted any attempt to divert funding away from the carbon reduction projects.

“This committee has long supported the needs of truckers, which is why we provided $1 billion for truck parking safety in the INVEST in America Act,” Stanton said “Defending the various priorities in the $500 billion House-passed INVEST in America Act, such as truck parking, is exactly why we should have had a conference with the Senate to work through differences.”

After pointing out this week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., told Stanton that if he is worried about carbon reduction, preventing truckers from driving around for nearly an hour looking for a truck parking spot is a good start. Graves asked Stanton if there is anything within the bill to get the $1 billion needed for the amendment. Stanton emphasized that the negotiation process is over and turned down Graves’ attempts to make a deal, stating that truck parking funding will need to be done somewhere else.

“I do, however, support additional funds for truck parking and look forward to working with (Bost) to advance this priority in other vehicles,” Stanton said.

In the increasing climate of partisanship in Congress, OOIDA believes, in spite of promises from both sides, the lack of parking funding lies at the feet of both parties.

117th Congress and truck parking funding

Tuesday’s vote was for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s portion of a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill being pushed exclusively by Democrats. Separate from a pending bipartisan $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, a reconciliation requires only a simple majority vote to advance rather than the 60 votes needed to bypass a filibuster. With Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaking vote, the budget reconciliation bill is a Democrat wish list of agenda items the party would otherwise be unable to pass.

However, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has made it clear that he will not vote for the bill with a $3.5 trillion price tag. Manchin wants the cost to be cut in half. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who introduced the bill in August, is resisting the idea to lower the price tag. Without Manchin’s vote, the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate.

On Aug. 10, the Senate passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill with a 69-30 vote. Although the Senate’s version eliminated a poison pill in the form of increasing minimum insurance requirements from $750,000 to $2 million, it also failed to address truck parking. However, the House version included $1 billion for truck parking projects. A bipartisan amendment by Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., that would reinsert that provision in the Senate version failed.

The House has yet to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will not vote on the $1 trillion bill until the Senate passes the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. With funding to address truck parking now eliminated from both bills, stakeholders are concerned about the future of the truck parking crisis.

On Monday, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent an email to Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members urging them to support Bost’s amendment.

“It’s difficult for truckers to imagine that in a year when Congress is authorizing hundreds-of-billions of dollars for infrastructure projects and highway safety programs, not a single penny would be set aside for truck parking – but that is exactly what will happen if the Bost amendment isn’t passed!” Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, wrote in the email. “America’s professional drivers have been working tirelessly to keep the country safe and productive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Is Congress really going to respond by failing to address their biggest need?”

The only hope for truck parking funding lies in Bost’s standalone truck parking bill. HR2187, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, was introduced in March. It allocates $755 million over five years for truck parking projects. As of publication, it had 25 cosponsors. However, once an infrastructure bill is passed, the issue will likely be tabled, giving HR2187 little chance to advance.

“This year, Congress will spend trillions-upon-trillions of dollars on their favorite government programs and initiatives, and not a penny will be devoted to truck parking,” Long said. “Why? Because despite the rhetoric, they simply don’t view the safety of truckers as a priority. What other plausible excuse could there be? You can’t spend trillions of dollars on everything under the sun, then claim there isn’t enough cash to provide any funding for parking. It’s inexcusable.” LL

TruckTractorTrailer

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.