House Releases its Highway Bill Reauthorization
Today, June 3, 2020, the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced his legislation for a 5-year reauthorization of the surface transportation program.
The bill is titled the INVEST in America Act, and it authorizes $494 billion over 5-years to be spent on highways, transit, rail, and vehicle safety programs. The bill which was written without Republican input dramatically increases spending on rail and transit programs while also increasing revenue for highway projects.
Of significant concern to TRALA is Section 4305 which calls for a Truck Leasing Task Force. The Task Force is made up of equal representatives of labor unions, motor carriers (including owner-operators), consumer groups, safety groups, and trial lawyers. The task force is asked to examine common truck leasing arrangements available to commercial drivers including lease-purchase agreements, the terms of these lease agreements, and the prevalence of predatory leasing agreements in the motor carrier industry. Additionally, the task force is asked to investigate specific agreements available to drayage drivers at ports related to the clean truck program or similar programs to decrease emissions, the impact of truck leasing agreements on the net compensation of commercial drivers including port drayage drivers, resources to assist commercial vehicle drivers in assessing the impacts of leasing agreements, and the classification of commercial vehicle drivers under lease-purchase agreements. Finally the task force is asked to provide best practices for assisting a commercial driver in assessing the impacts of leasing agreements prior to entering into agreements, assisting a commercial driver who has entered into a predatory lease, and finally recommendations on changes to laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local level to promote fair leasing agreements under which a commercial driver can earn a “living wage”. This truck leasing task force idea was originally proposed by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) as a section of her Port Drivers' Bill of Rights bill but in this new piece of legislation it appears to be expanded beyond port drivers. TRALA has serious concerns about a task force on leasing that will be dominated by attorneys, consumer advocates and union leaders as it appears to TRALA that this is an obvious attempt to either force drivers to unionize or to make sure the trial lawyers have plenty of ammunition to use against truck companies, or both.
Additionally, the bill requires the Secretary of Transportation to propose a new rule within one year of enactment which would require side-impact guards on trailers and semi-trailers that would prevent passenger vehicle intrusion if traveling at 35 miles per hour. Additionally, the bill calls for an advisory panel to be established to make recommendations on safety regulations to reduce crashes and fatalities involving truck underrides. TRALA has opposed the mandating of side-impact guards and has been working with other industry stakeholders to oppose this mandate. Finally, the bill re-establishes the need for states to partner with the Federal Highway Administration before moving forward on a tolling project.
The bill as introduced does not include a tax title and it is unclear how the bill is expected to be paid for, nor does it address issues like a federal excise tax (FET) holiday or repeal. TRALA expects that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will move quickly to pass this bill out of its committee soon. It would then be considered on the House floor where it would likely be paired with titles from other relevant committees like Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce. TRALA does not believe that this bill would be considered in the Senate, but that it would rather be the House offer in a conference with the Senate, should both chambers pass long-term reauthorizations of the surface transportation program. Therefore, while not likely to pass as written, many of the items within the House legislation could be part of a conference deliberation. This is troubling to TRALA and thus, significant lobbying and education with Members of Congress and staff will need to take place this summer.
You may view the complete bill text for the INVEST in America Act by clicking here. Additionally, you may view a summary of the bill by clicking here.
If you have any questions or comments regarding the provisions of this bill you may contact Jake Jacoby at firstname.lastname@example.org or Andrew Stasiowski at email@example.com.