Much ado about the highway bill and the gridlock on Capitol Hill may have truckers asking, “Why does it matter?” The answer is, because a highway bill shapes the future of transportation not only for highways and bridges, but for rules and regulations that affect every aspect of the trucking industry.
In a nutshell, a multiyear surface transportation authorization bill has everything to do with everything if you’re a trucker.
“The highway bill is significant because of how much that legislation can and does impact the daily lives of those in the trucking community – not only with the infrastructure that they depend upon but also with the regulations that guide their daily lives and livelihoods,” OOIDA Chief of Staff Rod Nofziger said.
Truck-relevant topics in the proposed legislation include truck parking, a study on the crashworthiness of truck cabs, broker and freight-forwarder reforms, driver training, procedures for dealing with chameleon motor carriers, and a study of how regulations affect small businesses.
While that list tends to be mostly positive for small-business truckers, the bill also includes a mandate for electronic on-board recorders for all trucks and various other technological mandates and studies that will dig deeper into your pockets and privacy.
The highway bill is currently in the hands of 49 appointed senators and representatives who are in charge of drafting the final language. They are working against a June 30 deadline for when current transportation programs and funding expire. Should they not meet the deadline, they’ll be forced to punt again by extending programs and funding on a temporary basis for the tenth time. They’ve done this nine times since the last highway bill known as SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009.
“It’s exhausting how long this process gets stretched out, but it’s an absolute necessity that truckers stay involved with the highway bill and stay engaged with their lawmakers,” Nofziger said.
On Friday, June 1, the House of Representatives’ calendar showed 12 legislative work days left before the end of the month – and there’s still a mountain of work to do and controversial provisions to deal with.
“There’s only so many days left, but there are obvious obstacles that the conference still needs to address,” said Nofziger. “One of those big obstacles is electronic on-board recorders.”
OOIDA and its membership continue to urge lawmakers to remove a proposed mandate for EOBRs in all trucks from the legislation. And although the current extension is set to expire, the EOBR debate is far from over, Nofziger says.
“Even if Congress doesn’t meet their deadline and another short-term extension is needed, the debate over a congressional mandate for EOBRs is far from done. There is a provision in the base bill that the Senate brought to the negotiations to mandate EOBRs,” he said.
“If we are successful in getting that provision removed, it would make it difficult for EOBR proponents to raise this issue again if there are future extensions or the debate lingers on after June 30.”