A new transportation and infrastructure bill proposed by Congressional Democrats seeks to invest nearly $500 billion in highways, bridges, safer streets, zero-emission vehicles, and public transit. The bill, however, would also delay, by as much as 18 months, the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service (HOS) final rule which had been set to go into effect on Sept. 29.
A “comprehensive review” of the new rules is now part of the House of Representatives’ bill, titled Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America), proposed by Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.
The bill includes $319 billion for highways and infrastructure, including fixing nearly 50,000 structurally compromised bridges across the nation. The bill represents “the largest highway legislation in history” and nearly doubles a similar $287 billion bill recently introduced in the Senate.
The bill would provide $4.6 billion over five years to the FMCSA, part of which would be used for a Large Truck Crash Causal Factors Study. It would offer incentives for reducing emissions related pollution and increase the funding for charging stations for zero-emission vehicles. The bill would also provide $250 million for truck parking projects.
The legislation, if passed, would require a delay in the HOS final rule until 60 days after the submission of a “comprehensive review of hours of service rules and the impacts of waivers, exemptions, and other allowances that limit the applicability of such rules.”
The new HOS rules would have made four significant changes for truckers including increasing safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule. It would modify the sleeper berth exception by allowing drivers to split the required 10-hours off duty into two periods, an 8/2 split or a 7/3 split with neither period counting against a driver’s 14-hour driving window.
It would modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending the time during which driving is permitted by two hours. And, it would change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by extending the driver’s on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
Reactions to the House proposal from industry stakeholders were mostly positive. Chris Spear, American Trucking Associations President, and CEO said in a statement, “This draft legislation contains significant investment in our country’s roads and bridges and approaches highway and truck safety from a data-driven perspective. And while we may not agree on every provision therein, this is a real and commendable step on the part of the committee to advance the process in the House and ultimately arrive at a negotiable solution with the Senate.”
Republicans, however, pointed out the bill would need to have their input, saying that transportation-related issues have always been bipartisan. But, since infrastructure has become an urgent priority in recent years, a compromise between House Democrats and Senate Republicans should be on the horizon.