The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress contains several measures that could benefit truckers, but excludes any reference to meal-and-rest breaks.
The $1.3 trillion measure to fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year passed the House on Thursday and the Senate early Friday morning. President Trump had threatened to veto the bill because it does not fully fund a border wall with Mexico but eventually did.
The legislation would give livestock haulers an exemption from the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate through the end of September. Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a waiver until June for livestock and agricultural haulers. The measure in the omnibus bill only covers livestock truckers.
The bill also grants North Dakota and New Hampshire permission to allow certain trucks to run at 129,000 lbs. and 99,000 lbs., above the current federal limit of 80,000 lbs. Total highway funding would receive a $3.5 billion boost, and the amount for the popular TIGER grant program would swell to $1.5 billion.
One measure that did not make the omnibus is a clarification that would block a California law requiring employers to provide a 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours a day, and a second meal break for those who work more than 10 hours a day.
American Trucking Associations had previously mentioned this bill as a possible vessel for a fix.
“Since the formation of the Republic, the federal government - not states like California - has had the power to regulate interstate commerce. ATA will fight for an industry that moves 71% of our nation's freight and employs 1 in 16 jobs in the US, and against a patchwork of state laws,” said Chris Spear, ATA’s president and CEO.
Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, blasted Congress for what she claimed was degrading truck safety.
“Congress continues to give priority to well-funded special interests over human lives by allowing the appropriations process to be hijacked by policy anomalies,” she said.
Regarding the change in weight limits, she said that “bigger and heavier trucks are not only unsafe but also hasten the destruction of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”
Also in the omnibus is a $50 million increase for apprenticeship programs and $75 million bump for career and technical education programs. It also blocks any attempt by the Energy Department to restart a nuclear storage program at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.