Trucking organizations react to Senate’s passage of bipartisan infrastructure bill

Trucking organizations react to Senate’s passage of bipartisan infrastructure bill
Under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the Senate Aug. 10, 2021, $110 billion in funding would be allocated to the nation’s roads and bridges. (Linda Garner-Bunch/The Trucker)

The much-debated $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was passed by the U.S. Senate Aug. 10 with a vote of 69-30.

Nineteen Republican senators joined Democrats to swing the equally divided legislature for the passage of the 2,700-page bill. The bill’s next stop will be the U.S. House of Representatives, which is in recess until mid-September.

Under the provisions of the bill, $110 billion of the $1 trillion in funding would go to the nation’s roads and bridges; $40 billion of that $110 billion is earmarked for bridges.

Folded into the Senate’s bill are several provisions that would directly impact the trucking industry, including:

  • A vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) pilot program for both commercial and passenger vehicles;
  • An under-21 apprenticeship pilot program that would allow younger drivers to engage in interstate commerce;
  • A driver compensation study that would examine the impacts of different methods of compensation on safety as well as driver retention;
  • The formation of a Women of Trucking Advisory board to encourage women to enter the industry;
  • The creation of a Truck Leasing Task Force to examine truck-leasing and lease-purchase agreements between motor carriers and owner-operators to help prevent predatory practices; and
  • A comprehensive study on the causes of and contributing factors of commercial vehicle crashes;
  • An automatic emergency braking (AEB) mandate that would require all new commercial vehicles to be equipped with AEB technology within two years; and
  • A requirement that rear trailer underride guard standards be strengthened. This measure also calls for research on the effectiveness and impact of side underride guards, as well as the formation of an Advisory Committee on Underride Protection.

Two items that are notably absent from the Senate’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are funding for additional safe truck parking across the nation and an increase in minimum insurance requirements for motor carriers.

While the omission of truck parking funding is generally considered a “minus” to most in the trucking industry, many trucking companies would undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief that the controversial proposal to increase minimum liability insurance requirements from $750,000 to $2 million does not appear in the Senate bill.

Following the passage of the bill by the senate, representatives from trucking industry associations spoke out, including the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

“For nearly three decades, our nation and industry have been held hostage by empty promises — all talk, no action. Today, the Senate put America ahead of itself,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of ATA.

“Passage of this bipartisan infrastructure bill is a groundbreaking step toward revitalizing America’s decaying roads and bridges, supporting our supply chain and economy with the foundation they need to grow, compete globally and lead the world,” he continued. “The bill also contains significant measures to grow and strengthen trucking’s essential workforce.”

TCA also applauded the passage of the bipartisan legislation.

“TCA is very pleased to see the infrastructure bill pass through the Senate, and we commend our elected leaders for taking a bipartisan approach to this much-needed investment in our nation’s transportation network,” said Kathryn Pobre, manager of government affairs for TCA.

“We know this is not the finish line for this legislation, and so we encourage the House of Representatives to quickly pass the bill,” she said. “Our nation’s workforce of trucking heroes should not be forced to wait any longer for repairs and safety improvements to the roads and bridges which serve as their 24/7 workplace, and our country’s citizens deserve an infrastructure system which will ensure the goods and services upon which they rely are not delayed.”

While he applauded the allocation of funding for roads and bridges, as well as the omission of increased insurance liability requirements, Todd Spencer, president and CEO of OOIDA, was not thrilled with the outcome of the vote.

“This should have been a bipartisan slam dunk,” Spencer said. “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. The lack of dedicated funding to address the truck parking crisis is a major reason OOIDA could not support the bill.”

Spencer said OOIDA would continue to oppose any surface transportation legislation that does not prioritize the needs of professional drivers.

“Despite the disappointing outcome, we want to thank Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) for championing Amendment 2615, which would have helped increase truck parking capacity across the country,” Spencer concluded. “We will continue work with them to identify other opportunities to address the lack of parking.”

Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.
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