Surface Bill Clears House Committee

A bill that would address road infrastructure and institute travel regulations moved forward in the Senate, gaining the approval of national transportation organization like the American Trucking Associations. The bill is seen as an important way to protect truck driving jobs and ensure a bright future for the trucking industry.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the bill on Feb. 3. Seen as the GOP’s major job creation initiative, the bill would make improvements to road infrastructure with funding from oil drilling and other sources. The Senate Finance Committee has already approved the necessary $9.6 billion in funding offsets that the roughly $109 billion bill would need to move forward.

For the American Trucking Associations, the bill represents the first major advancement in highway policy in the last six years. It addresses safety and expands infrastructure, two of the ATA’s priorities. Bill Graves, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, said the ATA is also pleased that the bill creates a clearinghouse for commercial truck drivers’ positive alcohol or drug tests. It also makes stronger guidelines for commercial drivers license testing and allots more funding for studying crashworthiness standards for large trucks.

Even with its support among Republicans and trucking companies, the bill is not without its challenges as it moves toward passage. Former Republican Congressman and current Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood criticized the bill, and some attacked its use of non-traditional revenue sources like oil drilling. Another funding proposal includes a tax on vehicles weighing less than 6,000 pounds that fail to meet the 22.5 miles per gallon efficiency standards, which is estimated to raise $697 million.

Republicans have expressed optimism that the bill can pass, even if it does not gain Democratic support. Another factor pointing toward its passage is the financial state of the Highway Trust Fund, which faces insolvency in the next two years if it does not gain funding the legislation would bring.

For the ATA, the bill’s measures to focus funding on highway projects are seen as a great advantage as it nears passage. Graves said the bill would refocus transportation projects to ensure that the more than $8 billion the truck industry pays in diesel taxes is used to benefit those paying the taxes, including trucking companies, and not for non-highway projects.

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