Those interested in repairing our country’s infrastructure were dismayed to learn that an amendment to the INVEST in America Act being considered in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure would increase minimum financial responsibility levels from $750,000 to $2 million. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-Illinois) and passed the committee by a vote of 37-27 on June 17.
The amendment prompted the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), to pull its support of the bill, saying the amendment was a “poison pill” for its membership. At the same time, American Trucking Associations (ATA), an organization comprised of mostly larger carriers, announced its support.
The INVEST Act, including the new amendment, has since been folded into the larger, $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act that is currently under consideration in the House of Representatives. The act, in its present form, is crafted by Democrats in the House, with zero Republican participation, and faces a large hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate.
More recently, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Illinois) introduced an amendment that would strip the requirement for the increase in financial responsibility levels from the act. Bost is a former trucker himself, and drove for his family’s trucking business before moving into a management position.
OOIDA quickly announced its support for this new amendment; however, gaining acceptance through the Democrat-majority committee will be an uphill battle.
Whatever form the Moving Forward Act retains when approved by the full House, it faces strong opposition in the Senate. Opponents of the bill complain that only $300 billion of the $1.5 trillion cost of the bill is earmarked for repair of bridges and roads, while huge amounts are slated for increasing the availability of broadband and for “green” initiatives, including $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service to, among other goals, develop a “zero emissions” fleet of vehicles.
Election years typically bode well for infrastructure bills; however, Congress has already spent lavishly to stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 crisis while suffering a sharp decline in tax revenues. The idea of taking on another $1.5 trillion in debt may be unpalatable to conservative members of Congress, and President Trump has not indicated whether he will sign the bill in its current form.
For now, the road remains bumpy — both literally and figuratively — for small-business truckers who are trying to cope with rising insurance rates along with the other problems of the year 2020.