It’s not a highway bill anymore; it’s a law. President Obama signed Congress’ two-year, $101 billion transportation bill into law on Friday, July 6, bringing closure to a long debate and setting a path for the future. While the law is not perfect, and does contain a provision to mandate EOBRs, it does offer many positives for trucking and transportation.
The law, formerly bill HR4348, is also known as MAP-21, or Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. It replaces the 2005 transportation law known as SAFETEA-LU, which expired in 2009. Since that time, Congress passed a total of 10 short-term, temporary extensions to keep transportation afloat, including the final temporary extension that was necessary this past week to buy sufficient time for the new law to be printed and signed.
Congress came together and passed MAP-21 on June 29 following debates and last-minute attempts to insert language or change the final outcome.
Truckers should know that the law does contain a provision to require electronic on-board recorders within a couple of years on heavy trucks engaged in interstate commerce. But the fight over an EOBR mandate is far from over. The House recently passed a separate bill that would, if it passes the Senate later this year, prohibit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from spending money to implement a mandate for EOBRs.
The new MAP-21 law contains a number of provisions of interest to truckers. Those that OOIDA has tracked and supported include a “Jason’s Law” provision to prioritize safe truck parking across the nation, named after trucker Jason Rivenburg who was shot and killed after parking his rig at an abandoned gas station because there was no alternative.
OOIDA has also supported a study of cab crashworthiness for trucks, reforms and a new registration system for brokers and freight forwarders, a call for comprehensive driver training, and an effort to crack down on reincarnated motor carriers.
There’s much more to the new law than that. For a description of the hot topics, check out this primer by Land Line Managing Editor Jami Jones.
Tolling has been a big issue in recent years for truckers fighting to protect their bottom lines. MAP-21 allows for tolls to be used to pay for new lanes or new capacity added to the existing network, but the law does not expand the current rules for tolling existing routes.
Speaking of bottom lines, much ado has been made about the financial stability of the Highway Trust Fund – the pot of money generated from fuel taxes and other user fees that pays for federally funded programs, agencies and projects.
Prior to the passage of MAP-21, the Congressional Budget Office said the Highway Trust Fund would go broke sometime in 2013. But with MAP-21 in place, the potential for the fund to go broke is kicked a little further down the road.
In passing MAP-21, lawmakers said the bill will create or save thousands construction jobs and countless others related to transportation. At the very least, the new law provides two years of certainty to states that have been running a piecemeal approach to road and bridge funding since 2009.