Though Interstate tolling drew the most attention in President Obama and Secretary Anthony Foxx’s Wednesday-released highway bill, the legislation would take on other trucking-related issues, too, arguably chief among them a requirement that carriers pay drivers for on-duty time not driving, such as time spent detained at shippers and receivers.
The Obama administration was the first to the table this year with a highway reauthorization bill, as Foxx unveiled the full text of the bill this week and announced plans to send it to Congress.
The GROW AMERICA Act’s length and amount have been known for some time: President Obama announced his plan for pro-growth business tax reform as means to fund a four-year, $302 billion spending bill in February. The plan was also the subject of a recent bus tour by Foxx, who visited several locations in eight states pushing the plan and urging citizens to contact their members of Congress to tell them to get to work on a highway bill.
The American Trucking Associations and other trucking groups blasted the bill, particularly its removal of the federal prohibition on tolling existing Interstate lanes.
The bill is far from becoming law, however. It still must pass both the Senate and the House to be enacted, which is a tall order, especially in the Republican-controlled House, whose members are hesitant to stamp approval on any bill that comes from the White House.
But it does keep items like driver pay reform, tolling and general highway funding in conversation.
If passed, the bill would allow the DOT to require carriers to pay drivers detention time, “at no less than the federal minimum wage,” according to the DOT’s analysis of the bill.
Unpaid detention time “often results in pressure for drivers to drive beyond the federal hours of service limits, as a matter of economic necessity, risking driver fatigue and jeopardizing highway safety,” the analysis reads.
The requirement, however, appears to be only for carriers, not the shippers and receivers themselves, so it’s unclear how the measure would affect owner-operators, independents and small fleets, if at all.
Other provisions in the DOT’s bill
New Entrant Audits: Building upon the MAP-21 requirement that FMCSA develop and implement new training and testing procedures for so-called New Entrants — that is, first-time carriers and brokers applying for authority — the GROW AMERICA bill would allow FMCSA to change the way it audits new carriers, allowing them to audit where the agency deems they would get the most safety value.
Electronic logging device recall actions: The bill gives some regulatory authority to FMCSA over ELD providers, allowing the agency to require ELD providers to send recall notices to purchasers if necessary.
Scrapping the Highway Trust Fund (the name, anyway): The bill would do away with the Highway Trust Fund and replace with a similar Transportation Trust Fund, which would be funded with revenue from business tax reform, along with the taxes already collected for the Highway Trust Fund, like fuel taxes.
Tolling: As covered in CCJ‘s April 29 article about the bill’s announcement, GROW AMERICA would allow states to toll existing Interstate lanes as a means to bolster highway reconstruction spending. Tolling of existing Interstate lanes is currently prohibited by federal law. The bill analysis says that tolling implementation would have to be approved by the DOT. Trucking groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations, along with groups like Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, blasted the bill this week for its tolling provisions.