Senate committee highlights truck parking in draft bill

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 11/7/2011

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a 600-page draft bill on Friday, Nov. 4. It covers policies and funding levels for the Federal Highway Administration for the next two years at a cost of $85 billion.

Part of EPW’s jurisdiction is federal highway funding. The committee’s draft calls for a total of $78.9 billion to be spent on highways over the two-year duration of the bill.

OOIDA leadership continues to review the draft, including provisions relating to tolling, congestion pricing, mobility and freight management. The EPW Committee’s draft is just one chapter in the process. Other Senate committees have jurisdiction over things like motor carrier safety, and those committees have yet to bring forward their provisions.

The EPW Committee plans to mark up its draft on Wednesday, Nov. 9. Committee proceedings are to be webcast at epw.senate.gov.

Provisions in the EPW draft would eliminate congressional earmarks and streamline a number of DOT programs while accelerating project delivery. The draft also establishes a national freight program to provide funds for states to improve regional or national freight corridors.

One provision that has already caught the eye of truckers aims to create more safe truck parking.

Under a heading of “Jason’s Law,” the provision is named after trucker Jason Rivenburg who was murdered at an abandoned gas station in 2009 after he could not find a safer place to park his truck.

The Jason’s Law provision expands potential funding sources for parking and, most importantly, identifies parking as a safety priority on the level with guard rails and stop signs.

“The bill includes a number of important provisions regarding improving and expanding truck parking across the country and makes it very clear that adequate truck parking is an important component of highway safety,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley said.

Online forums and Facebook pages were abuzz Monday about the parking provision.

According to the bill language, “It is the sense of Congress that it is a national priority to address projects under this section for the shortage of long-term parking for commercial motor vehicles on the National Highway System to improve the safety of motorized and non-motorized users and for commercial motor vehicle operators.”

The transportation authorization process takes time. The 2005 policy known as SAFETEA-LU technically expired in 2009, but Congress has been using temporary extensions to keep transportation programs going.

Senate committees such as Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation, Banking and Finance have not yet added their provisions to the mix for a new bill. And the House of Representatives – specifically the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – has yet to come forward with its draft.

As OOIDA’s Bowley put it recently, getting a transportation authorization bill passed is a marathon, not a sprint.