We have a highway bill

By Land Line staff

For the first time in more than a decade, highway funding and policy are settled for the next five years with the president's signature putting into law the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act late on the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2015.

The House of Representatives passed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, by a vote of 359-65 on Dec. 3, one day before the previous funding extension expired. The Senate defied earlier reports that it would not take up the measure until the following week and passed the bill by a vote of 83-16 the same evening of the House's passage.

Members of the congressional conference committee representing both chambers nailed down details of a long-term U.S. highway funding bill. Racing against the funding extension Dec. 4 deadline, conferees signed off on their compromise bill on Dec. 1.

The 1,300-page legislation authorizes federal surface programs through fiscal year 2020 - a five-year bill. The measure will provide $305 billion for roads, bridges and mass transit.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association continues to monitor analysis and interpretations of the provisions included in the legislation. Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said he viewed the act as a positive compromise.

At first glance, a number of top trucker concerns clearly were thumbs up, the result of intense efforts from truck drivers represented in D.C. by OOIDA.

No provisions increasing truck size were included in the FAST Act, nor were there provisions that would work to standardize mileage pay.

Importantly, a provision that created an incentive to use only carriers who have a "satisfactory" rating from DOT was removed from the bill. OOIDA supported the altering or exclusion of this language since the overwhelming majority of small trucking businesses are actually not rated at all.

The bill does include promising language that could effectively prevent FMCSA from moving forward on any rulemaking that would increase the liability insurance requirement on trucking businesses, potentially skyrocketing insurance premiums. OOIDA and truckers fought for these protections, demonstrating why increased insurance requirements would be bad policy and an unnecessary attack on small-business trucking.

The Act also requires a thorough review and reform of the current enforcement prioritization program to ensure that FMCSA's Compliance, Safety, Accountability analysis is the "most reliable possible for the public and for enforcement purposes."

In addition, the Act requires that FMCSA analysis of enforcement data be temporarily removed from public websites on the day after enactment, until the agency has completed nine reforms required by the new FAST Act. Enforcement and inspection data reported by states and enforcement agencies will remain available for public view. LL

Editor-in-Chief Sandi Soendker, Managing Editor Jami Jones and Associate Editor Greg Grisolano contributed to this report.