At a White House press event with construction workers and college students attending, President Obama on Friday, July 6, signed the highway reauthorization bill cleared by a joint committee last week. HR 4348, which maintains current transportation spending levels at $101.3 billion for the next 27 months, also targeted interest rate increases for college student loans.
“It has been 30 months since we have had a true long-term highway funding bill,” said Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and chief executive officer. “Today’s bill signing is a good thing for trucking and for our national economy. It is not perfect, but this law advances the cause of highway safety and, I believe, will ultimately be seen as a springboard to even more robust transportation funding in the future.”
Among the safety directives sought by ATA and incorporated into the new law are a requirement for electronic logging devices, a study of truck crashworthiness, the creation of a drug-and-alcohol testing clearinghouse and notification system for employers of driver safety violations, improved driver licensing standards and tougher requirements for new truck drivers and companies.
The U.S. House and Senate on Friday, June 29, were able to reach agreement on transportation legislation for the first time since 2005; the House passed the highway bill 373-52, while the Senate approved the legislation 74-19. Graves did express disappointment that, despite the law’s many positives for trucking, it fails to deliver what ATA considers “adequate funding” to improve the U.S. infrastructure network.
“If America is to maintain its place as the world’s preeminent economy, then we must do more to maintain and improve our nation’s system of roads and bridges to ensure that goods can move freely and efficiently from factories to ports and from farms to markets,” he said. “While this bill takes steps in that direction, much more must be done in the future.”
The most recent three-month highway bill funding extension – originally set to expire Saturday, June 30 – was the ninth since the September 2009 expiration of SAFETEA-LU, the most recent long-term transportation funding law. House and Senate committee conferees agreed on the compromise legislation Wednesday, June 27. After the House and Senate votes on Friday, June 29, Obama signed a one-week continuance of the funding extension to give time for the full legislation to reach his desk this week.
The House last week also passed an amendment to transportation spending legislation, separate from the encompassing highway authorization, that blocks funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop or implement rules requiring electronic logging devices. The actual ELD mandate is part of the highway bill and could be funded later.