Senate Passes $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
On August 10, 2021, the Senate passed its $1.2 trillion infrastructure package by a vote of 69-30.
The bill, H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, reauthorizes the surface transportation program for 5 years. Besides traditional road and bridge infrastructure, the legislation also includes money for expanded broadband access, the power grid, and passenger rail. The bill will now be sent to the House where it faces serious opposition in its current form.
Of particular interest to TRALA members is the Truck Leasing Task Force which establish a 10-person panel to investigate commercial leases offered to drivers including lease-purchase agreements. The panel will be made up of representatives of labor unions, motor carriers who provide lease-purchase agreements, trial lawyers, owner-operators, consumer protection groups, and businesses who are subject to lease-purchase agreements. While TRALA members do not offer lease purchase agreements, TRALA remains concerned that the task force could broaden the scope of the original intent to look into traditional truck leases, which are already highly regulated. TRALA has opposed this provision and will continue to push for this task force to remain narrow in scope or be eliminated entirely.
In addition to the task force, there is a voluntary national pilot program for a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax. The program will be open to operators of passenger motor vehicles and commercial trucks, and it will be jointly operated by the Department of Transportation and the Treasury Department. The program will be used to assess the feasibility by either replacing or adding on to the existing federal gas tax, and participants in the program will be reimbursed for their gas tax paid while in the program.
Furthermore, the infrastructure bill includes a strengthening of the rear impact guard that would require trailers to be equipped with rear impact guards which would prohibit passenger compartment intrusion from a car travelling at 35 miles per hour. Also included in the bill is a mandate for Automatic Emergency Braking Systems which is required to be drafted by the Department of Transportation within two years.
Finally, TRALA and its allies were successful in having the Senate remove the planned increase in the federal minimum insurance level for commercial motor vehicles operating in interstate commerce. TRALA and its coalition partners lobbied for months to prohibit increasing the minimum insurance level from $750,000 to $2 million.
Having passed the Senate, the infrastructure package will be sent to the House or Representatives where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated that she will not bring the infrastructure package to the floor until the Senate has passed its $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. This is likely leverage from Speaker Pelosi to hold up the infrastructure package to ensure that all Senate Democrats vote for the reconciliation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has instructed his committee chairs to submit their committee packages by September 15, 2021. It is unlikely that the House would accept and pass the Senate infrastructure package as it is currently written once it is brought to the floor, as the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has already indicated that he will not accept the highway bill language included in the Senate infrastructure package. If the House amends the infrastructure package, it could then move to a conference committee to agree on a final package which could be voted on by both the House and Senate this fall.
You may view the Senate infrastructure package by clicking here.
If you have any questions or comments on the infrastructure package, you may contact Andrew Stasiowski at email@example.com or Jake Jacoby at firstname.lastname@example.org.