Last evening the U.S. House and Senate has appointed conferees to negotiate the differences between the two versions of the highway bill. The highway bill, which was set to expire on May 31, was also given a one month extension until June 30 to provide time for the House and Senate conferences.
This marks the seventh extension the bill has received, but Congress seeks to make this the last one, according to a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee spokesperson. No date has been set for meetings at this time.
Efforts by the trucking interests and transportation officials to write into law the current hours-of-service rules have yielded no fruit in either the House or Senate versions of the bill.
A resolution between the Senate and House proposals on tolling existing Interstate lanes will be closely watched by the trucking industry. In the Senate version, the Hutchinson-Nelson amendment limits Interstate tolls to new lanes, with the exception of an ongoing I-81 pilot project in Virginia. The House version allows for limited tolling on both new and existing Interstate lanes.
A provision requiring trucking customers to pay mandatory fuel surcharges passed the House, but not the Senate—leaving the issue to be another hot button for trucking until Congress is ready to send the bill to the President.
President George W. Bush has vowed to veto any bill that exceeded the $284 billion level set by the House version. The Senate’s $295 billion version defies the veto threat, and will be another point of interest at the negotiations.