The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a highway reauthorization bill that includes a provision to raise trucking insurance liability from $750,000 to $2 million, mandates automatic braking on new trucks and increases scrutiny of truck dispatch services.
The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act, which passed the chamber largely along party lines by a vote of 221 to 201, faces the significant hurdle of getting approval in the Senate, which has yet to pass its own surface transportation bill.
The House bill includes $547 billion to reauthorize surface transportation programs within the Department of Transportation over five years, a $53 billion increase over the previous five-year authorization known as the FAST Act. It includes $343 billion for highways, bridges and road safety and $95 billion for passenger and freight rail.
Republicans claimed Democrats packed the legislation with too much “nontraditional” infrastructure, over-relied on debt financing to pay for it and ignored input from the other side of the aisle.
“The extreme partisan policies throughout the [Democrats’] ‘My Way or the Highway Bill’ aren’t going to get the support needed to pass the Senate, so the Majority has wasted another year on yet another messaging bill instead of working on a strong bipartisan proposal we can take to conference with the Senate,” commented House T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves, R-Missouri, after the bill passed.
In addition to the insurance premium increase and an automatic emergency braking mandate, the bill included other provisions opposed by small business truckers: more screening requirements for obstructive sleep apnea; a move toward a requirement for side underride guards on trucks; restrictions on the use of a truck for personal conveyance; and the use of electronic logging device data for transportation research.
Republicans on the T&I committee, with support from the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, had attempted to exclude the provisions while the bill was being considered by the committee earlier this month but failed.
“We’re extremely disappointed our efforts to improve the legislation for truckers were flatly rejected by committee Democrats, but many of the most problematic provisions that remain in the bill are simply too controversial to gather sufficient support in the Senate,” commented OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer.
American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear, on the other hand, considered passage of the bill “a significant step toward enacting the kind of comprehensive infrastructure package our nation needs” due to the amount of funding authorized in the bill.