Huge, huge news this week. In a bi-partisan negotiation between the House and Senate, Congress passed a five year fully funded highway bill. Known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the $305 billion bill does not index the gas tax meaning that although FAST is fully funded, it is still done so in gimmicky short term ways, such as selling oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve and raiding the Federal Reserve. Funding concerns aside, the following are some of the highway bill’s provisions that effect the trucking industry:
- Establishes benchmarks that the DOT must hit before creating laws on raising financial obligations. For example, the DOT must analyze the effect higher insurance limits would have on the industry before raising them.
- The DOT must also study the impact delays during the loading and unloading process have on the industry
- Removes certain CSA scores from public view, including those where it is determined that neither the driver nor the carrier is at fault.
- Allows for carriers to use hair testing as an alternate for urine testing when running drug tests.
- Creates a pilot program to grant CDLs to drivers under 21. There is an interesting large carrier/small carrier debate here. Large carriers see this as a crucial step in solving both the driver shortage problem as well as the driver age problem. On the other hand, small carriers are not satisfied with the status quo. They prefer energy go towards creating a “professional class of safe and economically viable drivers” (OOIDA) from the driver pool that already exists.
- Does not increase truck size and weight.
- Increases the state’s authority to regulate third-party tows.
- Every state will receive a 5 percent increase in federal highway funding in the first year.