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House bill aims to boost highway safety, addresses HOS rules

June 4, 2020
The nearly $500 billion draft bill includes investments in road, transit and rail needs, and would roll back changes made to drivers’ hours of service rules.

House Democrats rolled out a $500 billion draft transportation infrastructure bill on June 3 that includes significant investments in the country’s aging roads and bridges. The bill also suspends changes made to drivers’ hours of service (HOS) rules and includes additional measures to address motor carrier safety.

The bill, which has been lauded by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, would boost funding for highway safety programs under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), providing $5.3 billion over five years. It would also increase funding for truck and bus safety programs under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), providing $4.6 billion over five years.

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released text of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act, a key component of the Moving Forward Framework that House Democrats released earlier this year.

Motor carrier safety measures in the bill include:

  • The authorization of higher grant funding levels for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, High Priority grants, and Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation grants to assist states in truck and bus safety oversight and enforcement activities, commercial driver licensing, and technology improvements to support those efforts.
  • Compliance, Safety, Accountability: The transportation secretary would be required to complete the revisions required by the FAST Act to its carrier oversight and intervention model, to prioritize reinstating the public display of safety data, and to finalize a safety fitness determination rule to rate the safety of carriers.
  • A call for a complete rulemaking to require automatic emergency braking systems in newly manufactured commercial motor vehicles.
  • A call to strengthen rear underride guard standards in newly manufactured trailers and semi-trailers, to further research and consider the feasibility, benefits, and costs associated with installing side underride guards, and creates an Advisory Committee on Underride Protection.

Driver safety provisions include:

  • A requirement to report on delays with implementation of entry-level driver training.
  • Commercial driver licensing requirements to vehicles carrying 9-15 passengers.
  • Creating a Truck Leasing Task Force to examine lease and lease-purchase agreements commonly made available to truck drivers and the impacts of captive leases on driver pay.
  • A requirement to collect and use data on driver detention to determine the link between detention and safety outcomes.
  • A requirement to evaluate the impacts of exemptions before finalizing changes to hours of service rules and establishes stronger reporting requirements for carriers utilizing exemptions.

"On behalf of ATA members helping move 71 percent of our nation's freight, we applaud Chairman DeFazio for fulfilling his commitment to produce a comprehensive infrastructure bill, and we look forward to working with House Ways & Means Chairman [Richard] Neal to fund it—with real money,” stated ATA president and CEO Chris Spear.

"This draft legislation contains significant investment in our country's roads and bridges. 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,” he continued. "Roads and bridges are not Democrat or Republican. We all drive on them. For the 7.7 million Americans in trucking who do their job each day to move our economy forward, we ask members of Congress to do theirs—and pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill that meets the urgent needs of our economy, our industry and the motoring public."

The Teamsters have lauded the release of a new House transportation measure, saying the bill is a win for workers and will enhance roadway safety. It will not only make nearly $500 billion available for road, transit and rail needs, but would suspend changes made to the HOS rules that Teamsters said “increase the amount of time truckers could be on the road without a rest break.”

"For too long, the needs of professional drivers and others who work in the transportation sector have been ignored by lawmakers," Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa said. "This legislation will set the nation on the right path by making badly needed infrastructure improvements while also ensuring that workers are protected on the job."

The Teamsters have been an outspoken opponent of HOS changes for years. The bill would require the FMCSA to conduct a comprehensive review of the impacts of current HOS rules, including exemptions, and prohibit expansions of on-duty time for commercial truck drivers proposed by the agency from taking effect until 60 days after the submission of the results of the review to Congress.

The legislation would also reduce traffic for drivers around big cities by providing $250 million in gridlock reduction grants; create a truck leasing task force to examine lease and lease-purchase agreements commonly made available to truck drivers and the impacts of these captive leases on driver pay; and make investments in motor carrier safety, including through grants to assist states in truck and bus safety oversight.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will consider the INVEST in America Act at a committee markup scheduled for June 17. The current surface transportation authorization expires on September 30.

The INVEST in America Act authorizes nearly $500 billion over five years to address some of the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs, including:

  • Tackling the massive backlog of roads, bridges, and transit systems in need of repair and replacement.
  • Building resilient infrastructure that will withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather.
  • Designing streets that are safer for all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Putting the U.S. on a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector by prioritizing carbon pollution reduction, investing in public transit and the national rail network, building out fueling infrastructure for low- and zero-emission vehicles, and deploying technology and innovative materials.
  • Sharply increasing funding for public transit options in urban, suburban and rural areas in order to integrate technology and increase routes and reliability with tools such as bus-only lanes and priority signaling.
  • Making transformational investments in Amtrak to create a reliable rail system and to address maintenance needs in the Northeast Corridor and throughout the country.
  • Improving access to federal funding to help communities around the country undertake transformative projects.

“The bulk of our nation’s infrastructure—our roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems, the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day— is not only badly outdated, in many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back. Yet for decades, Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls for an overhaul and instead simply poured money into short-term patches," DeFazio said. "The result? We’re still running our economy on an inefficient, 1950s-era system that costs Americans increasingly more time and money while making the transportation sector the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution.

“That all changes with the INVEST in America Act. After holding nearly 20 committee hearings, receiving testimony from dozens and dozens of witnesses and Members of Congress, and engaging with hundreds of advocates and transportation agencies, I am proud to bring together the ideas and the needs into one transformational bill that will catapult our country into a new era of how we plan, build, and improve U.S. infrastructure. The INVEST in America Act is our opportunity to replace the outdated systems of the past with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits the economy of the future, creates millions of jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness.”

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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