In a late night vote on Nov. 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill known as the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act. President Biden praised the Act, calling it a "once-in-a-generation investment that's gonna create millions of jobs, modernize our infrastructure, our roads, our brides, our broadband, a whole range of things, to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity." The bill now heads to President Biden's desk for signature.
At a high level, the Act allocates over $450 billion in new funding for surface transportation projects, with over $300 billion devoted to highway programs. The American Trucking Associations was quick to praise the Act, noting that "After countless hearings and meetings on Capitol Hill, ATA members will finally see the fruits of their labor—a 38% increase in road and bridge funding, and an infusion of highly-trained, younger talent into our workforce."
The Act contains several provisions aimed specifically at the trucking industry, many of which were contained in prior versions of the bill.
Women in Trucking Advisory Board
The Act directs the FMCSA to stand up a Women in Trucking Advisory Board to "explore every opportunity to encourage and support the pursuit and retention of careers in trucking by women, including through programs that support recruitment, driver training, and mentorship." According to the Act, women are significantly underrepresented in the trucking industry, holding only 24 percent of all transportation and warehousing jobs and representing only 6.6% of truck drivers. The Board will be composed of diverse members from the industry who will be tasked with researching and reporting to Congress on policies to educate, train, and provide outreach to women in the trucking industry.
Truck Leasing Task Force
The Act directs the USDOT, in consultation with the Department of Labor, to set up a Truck Leasing Task Force comprised of trucking labor groups, motor carriers with lease-purchase programs, owner-operators, and others to examine the terms of truck leasing agreements, inequities within those agreements, how the agreements impact truck maintenance and highway safety, and the financial impacts of such agreements. The task force will submit a report to Congress, including a discussion of their findings and recommendations concerning necessary changes in laws and regulations.
Automatic Emergency Braking
The Act directs the USDOT to, within 2 years, amend the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Standards to include a requirement that all newly-manufactured commercial motor vehicles be equipped with automatic emergency braking, which it defines to mean, "a system on a commercial motor vehicle that, based on a predefined distance and closing rate with respect to an obstacle in the path of the commercial motor vehicle--alerts the driver of the obstacle, and if necessary to avoid or mitigate a collision with the obstacle, automatically applies the brakes of the commercial motor vehicle."
Rear & Side Underride Guards
The Act directs the USDOT to, within 1 year, promulgate rules to require that newly-manufactured trailers and semi-trailers be equipped with "rear impact guards that are designed to prevent passenger compartment intrusion from a trailer or semitrailer when a passenger motor vehicle traveling at 35 miles per hour makes" impact with the trailer." Further, the Act requires the USDOT to research side underside guards to better understand their effectiveness.
The Act requires the USDOT to, within 180 days, report to Congress on the cost and effectiveness of ELDs, as well as the processes used by the FMCSA to review ELD records, protect proprietary information and personal information contained on those devices, and accept challenges by operators to alleged violations discovered using those devices.
Apprenticeship Program For Younger Drivers
The Act directs the USDOT to, within 60 days, establish a pilot program allowing employers to set up apprenticeship programs to allow 18-21 year olds to operate CMVs requiring a CDL in interstate commerce, provided the apprentice is accompanied by an experienced operator (i.e., older than 26, has held a CDL for more than 2 years, and has had no preventable accidents or pointed moving violations in the past 2 years). According to the Act, the pilot program is to consist of an apprenticeship program involving a 120-hour probationary period during which the apprentice will have to meet certain benchmarks, and then a longer 280-hour period with additional benchmarks.
Combatting Human Trafficking
The Act authorizes funds to the USDOT for the "the recognition, prevention, and reporting of human trafficking, including the trafficking of human beings" in commercial vehicles."
Heavy Truck Crash Causation Study
The Act directs the USDOT to carry out a comprehensive study to: "to determine the causes of, and contributing factors to, crashes that involve a commercial motor vehicle; and to identify data requirements, data collection procedures, reports, and any other measures that can be used to improve the ability of States and the Secretary— (A) to evaluate future crashes involving commercial motor vehicles; (B) to monitor crash trends and identify causes and contributing factors; and (C) to develop effective safety improvement policies and programs."
Vehicle Mile Use Tax Pilot Program
The Act directs the USDOT to establish a pilot program to test a national vehicle per-mile usage fee to help restore and maintain the surface transportation system. This would include miles traveled by commercial vehicles.
The Act has been a long time in the making and includes several provisions that will undoubtedly impact commercial highway transportation. Notably missing from the Act is the originally proposed increase of the minimum insurance requirement for general commodity haulers from $750,000 to $2 million. The Act's full text is available at this link.