WASHINGTON — Truckers who applauded the long-overdue infrastructure bill now making its way through Congress were blindsided by a proposed amendment that would increase their costs of doing business.
On June 18, Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-Illinois) submitted a proposed amendment to the bill that would increase the minimum level of financial responsibility for most carriers from the current $750,000 to $2 million. Haulers of hazardous materials are currently required to carry minimum liability insurance of $1 million to $5 million, depending on quantity and hazard class.
Some carriers who have ceased operations in the past year cited the high cost of insurance as a factor in the demise of their businesses. The proposed amendment will undoubtedly add significantly to those costs.
Garcia sits on the Highways and Transit subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and is a member of the Future of Transportation Caucus.
H.R. 2, titled Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (better known by its acronym, INVEST in America), was introduced into the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) on June 11. The bill would authorize spending of $494 billion for infrastructure and related projects over the next five years. The act, if approved, will replace the current highway funding act, FAST, which is set to expire Sep. 30.
The bill is currently in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and has not been released to the full House for a vote.
Critics of the bill note that the $319 billion earmarked for highway investments falls far short of the amounts estimated by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in its 2017 Report Card, in which the group estimated a $543 billion cost just to bring current roads and bridges to an “acceptable” level. The organization estimated another $293 billion will be needed for system expansion and enhancements. The next Report Card from ASCE will be issued in 2021.
Others criticize the bill on political grounds, including the exclusion of House Republicans from the drafting process and because of proposed funding of “green” initiatives such as emissions measurement and electric-vehicle charging stations.
Garcia’s amendment passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee June 17 by a roll-call vote of 37-27.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which had previously issued a press release in support of the INVEST in America Act, sent a letter to committee members June 16 that opposed the Garcia amendment.
“Passage of the amendment would be a poison pill for OOIDA and our members, forcing us to vigorously oppose a bill we otherwise support,” Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, said in the letter.
The letter also stated, “Increasing the minimum insurance requirements from $750,000 to $2 million in the midst of a major economic downturn would be nothing short of disastrous for many small motor carriers and owner-operators, who are currently struggling to stay in business due to historically low freight rates.”
Once out of committee, the INVEST in America Act will go to the full House for approval. How it will fare in the Republican-controlled Senate is not known, but Republicans who feel excluded from the drafting of the bill will now have more cause to reject it, due to Rep. Garcia’s amendment.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.
You want truckers to carry higher rates of insurance on their trucks and business. In some ways I can agree with you but in others I can not. Have you sat back and really thought what it is really like out here for us truckers and owner operators with a small business trucking company. I bet that you haven’t. I bet that you don’t even know what it is really like out here for us. To me you are just someone on Capitol Hill with no sense of what is really going on out here. The freight is low,the conditions are bad for us and our safety is in jeopardy everyday. You and the rest of America were so glad and thankful when we kept our wheels rolling during the COVID-19 crisis, but when it started to get better. You and this country have turned your backs on us again as usual. What would this country be like if we “The American Truckers” were to turn our backs on the American people and just shut down the trucking industry for a while. You thought that it was bad during the covid-19 crisis. Wait until we shut down the country. You are starting something that doesn’t need to be delt with. Better yet. Have you actually been in a vehicle on the highway and seen how people in passenger cars drive. Why don’t you take a look at driver requirements for people in passenger vehicles. If you would have any since and look at the stats of vehicle accidents between passenger vehicles and commercial motor vehicles and who is actually caused the accident. You would be shocked and even amazed at the results. It is the passenger vehicles that cause the majority of the accidents. People have forgotten how to drive and take very big risks and chances. They are the one’s that loose their lives and the lives of others. So with this being said, please look at the statistics before making your decision. I may not be one of you constituents, but I am a small business truck driver trying to make a living in the Greatest Country in the World “The United States ”
Thank you for your time,
Glen Tippett Enterprises LLC
They better hope that bill doesn’t pass, or you ain’t seen nothing yet! It’s always some a–hole with no concept about trucking that will pull some bullsh-t idea out of their a– and run it up the flagpole without thinking about the consequences! This country is teetering on financial collapse as it is and here’s just one more numb nutz throwing a boulder on the pile….geesh!
I guess the trucking companies will pay for the looters and others destructions, even for the disasters. Wow… This time we (the small insignificant), need to shut down all operations. ASAP