Farm-related amendments survive in bill

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The highway bill passed March 9 by the U.S. House of Representatives includes two amendments affecting agricultural trucking, but other trucking-related amendments failed.

House members voted 417-9 to pass the $284 billion bill. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will consider its version of the bill today.

U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark., withdrew an amendment he proposed that would have allowed truckers a 16-hour workday with two hours of off-duty time. Wal-Mart, headquartered in Boozman’s home state, supported the proposal, but it was opposed by Public Citizen and the Teamsters and seemed to counter the Bush administration’s attempt to write the current hours rule into statutory law

Boozman stated he withdrew the proposal because of a “lot of misinformation about why I am seeking to change the rules governing truck drivers’ hours.” The congressman pledged to continue working on the issue.

The House voted 265-155 against an amendment, proposed by U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., to restrict tolling authority to newly constructed interstate lanes. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the American Trucking Associations and the National Taxpayers Union backed Kennedy’s amendment, which was opposed by highway and transit organizations.

House members voted 226-198 against an amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, that would exempt from the hours rule truckers working oil and natural gas fields.

The House approved an amendment proposed by U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., that would make permanent the agricultural hours exemption and define agricultural commodities, to eliminate confusion about what hauls are exempt..

House members also voted 236-184 to pass an amendment proposed by U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb. This amendment exempts Nebraska from federal truck-length requirements just enough to allow commercial combinations up to 81 feet, 6 inches for in-state operators harvesting wheat, soybeans and sorghum in season. The amendment is subject to a change in state statute.

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Congress has been unable to agree on a long-term highway funding bill to replace the one that expired in September 2003. Meanwhile, it has approved a series of extensions, the last of which expires May 31.