Cautious optimism for highway bill negotiations

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 5/18/2012

Lawmakers involved in negotiating a final version of a national transportation bill say they’re cautiously optimistic about getting a bill passed before a pending June deadline threatens to deliver a setback.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who chairs the conference committee of 33 House representatives and 16 senators, said May 15 that the group has moved past the organizational stage and has broken out into smaller working groups to tackle specific topics.

Of interest to truckers are provisions such as safe truck parking, cab-crashworthiness standards, freight broker reforms, driver training, program reform, an accelerated delivery of highway projects, a study of detention time and a study of how regulations affect small businesses. The committee is also dealing with tolls, roadway privatization and whether or not to mandate electronic on-board recorders across the trucking industry.

OOIDA continues to fight against the proposed EOBR mandate. Overall, the Association shares the committee’s cautious optimism that a bill could get done despite this being a presidential election year.

“We’re hopeful that the stars will align and that the House and Senate will find their way forward for a good highway bill that not only increases investments in our nation’s highways, but also protects privacy and small-businesses,” OOIDA Chief of Staff Rod Nofziger said.

“The EOBR mandate that appeared in the Senate version of the bill continues to be a battlefront among the trucking-specific provisions being debated in the committee.”

Nofziger says the longer the negotiations stretch out, the tougher the road could be for a quality bill.

The committee is up against a June 30 expiration date for current transportation programs, but that’s nothing new. The federal program has already been extended nine times since its first expiration in September 2009.

The election year puts an additional hurdle in the way.

“As it gets closer to election time, politicians turn their focus to their political party,” Nofziger said.

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