Congress has voted to pass a six-year highway funding bill by the wide margin of 363 to 64, but only after lengthy debate over some proposed amendments to the bill. Contention over heavier trucks, CSA scores, fuel tax increases, carrier hiring standards, under-21 interstate driving, and approximately 70 other amendments kept Congress deliberating for two full days.
A proposal to raise the federal gas tax by 15 cents over the course of three years and then indexing it to the rate of inflation was struck down. Upon its defeat, the author of the amendment said how failing to implement a higher gas tax was “a missed opportunity to provide certainty for the hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake and give states and local governments the federal partnership they need and deserve.”
The amendment allowing heavier trucks was struck down after a majority of Congress sided with the TCA and other industry groups who had concerns not only about the safety of having heavier trucks on the roads, but also about how allowing larger trucks would affect small carriers. According to the TCA, increasing weight limits would prevent small carriers from staying competitive with the large carriers who would be able to afford the new 6-axle trucks.
One amendment that did pass was the proposal that requires the DOT to remove carrier CSA scores from public view and rework the entire program. The amendment requires the DOT to make “corrective actions” to the CSA program.
Perhaps one of the most contentious amendments was one that sought to ban interstate driving for commercial truckers under the age of 21. Currently it is legal when the young drivers are part of pilot programs which are seeking to determine how well they do with interstate driving, and the amendment was hoping to shut down those programs to close the door on any future legislation that would lower the minimum age of interstate commercial drivers to 18. The amendment was struck down, allowing the pilot programs to continue.
The highway funding bill will now go on to the Senate for further debate and approval where there will no doubt be additional amendments proposed, voted on, and either confirmed or shot down.