SPECIAL REPORT: Highway bill still awaiting presidential signature

| 8/2/2005

Though Congress has approved the Highway Bill, it is still awaiting the signature of President Bush before it becomes law.

In the meantime, a 12th temporary extension is in effect that keeps the funding from the 1998 bill in place until Aug. 14 or when Bush signs the new one.

Unfortunately for truckers, the bill does not include the mandatory fuel surcharge legislation that was included in the House version of the bill earlier this year.

The American Trucking Association is claiming responsibility for killing the fuel surcharge amendment. In a press release, the ATA claimed that it "successfully blocked a mandatory fuel surcharge that would have increased consumer costs for everything shipped by truck."

Apart from the fuel surcharge, the bill does contain a number of other issues of concern for truckers. These include:

  • Updated rules on the transportation of hazardous materials;
  • A national registry of medical examiners for the transportation industry;
  • New rules making owners - not the truckers who pull them - responsible for intermodal chassis; and
  • Various CDL training programs, including a learner's permit program and grants for states to improve their CDL programs.

Land Line will provide detailed coverage of these and other areas of the Highway Bill throughout the week on this Web site and on "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio's Channel 171.

In other news, the bill, which calls for $286.5 billion in federal funding for highway and safety projects through 2009, has drawn sharp criticism for the amount of funding given to pet projects in the home districts of some congressional members.

The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste slammed the bill, claiming in a news release that it was little more than "another example of lawmakers catering to special interests."

Among other things, the group cited $230 million earmarked for a bridge connecting tiny Gravina Island, AK, (population: 50) with mainland Alaska. The group also cited tax breaks in various areas that have little to do with transportation, such as an income tax credit for distilled spirits wholesalers and a cap on the excise tax on certain fishing equipment.

- By Terry Scruton, senior writer