Congress cleared a five-year, $305 billion highway funding bill on December 4 providing funding for freight projects, changes to Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) regulations, and a pilot program to ease the professional truck driver shortage that is hampering the industry.
For the transportation and logistics industry, the long-awaited highway bill also includes funds for road and rail projects and renews the Export-Import Bank to September 2019. The passage also extends the Highway Trust Fund until September 20, 2020.
The bipartisan bill passed the Senate by an 83-16 vote on December 4, one day after the bill cleared the House with a 359-65 vote. The five-year bill marks the longest period of highway funding since 1998.
The passing of the bill ends a lobbying battle between numerous groups including port operators, transit administrators, organized labor, trucking companies, and road builders, which they now agree the bill as a positive change for the regulatory and spending landscape for the next several years.
Highlights of the bill include:
• CSA BASIC scores will not be made public until reforms are made to the calculation process
• A pilot program to test drivers under the age of 21 to take trucks across state lines
• The Department of Transportation (DOT) will start collecting information on freight handling at all ports
• Opens the door for the use of hair follicle testing for federally mandated drug tests
• Lawmakers did not include provisions to allow for longer and heavier trucks on federal highways
• Railroads carrying crude oil will be required to provide more detailed and rapid information on shipments
• Railroads will be required to add safety protections called thermal blankets to tank cars hauling crude oil
• $207.4 billion in funding for highway projects
• The measure creates a grant program that guarantees financing for large scale freight projects
• National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funds will increase $1 billion over the life of the bill for new safety programs
The passing of this bill is applauded and marks steady progress for the transportation and logistics industry.
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Authored by Natalie Putnam
Natalie Putnam is Vice President of Marketing at Ryder. With more than 25 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry, Putnam has been a leader in sales and marketing for some of the largest companies.