A federal spending bill that would authorize $71.4 billion for transportation infrastructure, housing assistance and community development sailed through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
The bill advanced without any “controversial riders,” a move the committee says is aimed at garnering bipartisan support for the bill’s approval, according to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
“This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise,” said Collins, the chair of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations subcommittee.
Collins and ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., worked together to draft an appropriations bill that avoided controversial amendments that could have increased truck size and weight or restricted driver compensation and labor protections.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association worked against the inclusion of those amendments in the bill.
The bill would provide $71.4 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies - a $1.1 billion increase over 2018 levels. Of that total, $26.6 billion would go to the U.S. DOT, nearly $700 million below the 2018 enacted level.
Language in the bill calls on the DOT to work with the Department of Agriculture, House and Senate committees and livestock haulers to address “further concerns specifically asking for the DOT to address “further concerns” raised by drivers who are affected by the electronic logging device mandate. The report request, which asks for “legislative solutions for drivers with unique working conditions” was made by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Steve Daines, R-Mont.
“The department should take into consideration the unique challenges associated with transporting live animals and agricultural commodities as well as ensuring roadway safety,” the report request states.
The bill also contains funding for various transportation safety programs and agencies within the DOT, including $956 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and $667 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Also included in the bill is report language addressing a joint proposed rule on speed limiters in commercial vehicles. The committee directs NHTSA and FMCSA to “fully and expeditiously address all public comments” and that the final rule should address the impact of creating speed differentials on highways. OOIDA previously filed comments in opposition to a speed limiter mandate, arguing that speed differentials pose an increased risk to motorists’ safety.
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