A week after passing an interim measure that extended funding for freeways after Thanksgiving, the House of Representatives passed a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill Friday night that provides $ 110 billion for roads, highways and bridges, as well as money for the construction of electric vehicle infrastructure, water projects, expansion of high-speed Internet service, environmental clean-up, and public transit. It also creates a training and apprenticeship program for commercial drivers under the age of 21 for interstate transportation.
The measure was narrowly passed (228-206) with 215 Democrats voting alongside 13 Republicans in favor of a 38% increase in funding for roads and bridges, as did Jim Edwards, head of government affairs for the National Association of Small Trucking Companies has called it a “mixed bag” regarding the potential impact for small carriers.
He “spends a fair amount of money on infrastructure,” he said, praising the billions spent on roads and bridges, although “that’s about 12% of total spending.” The highway money is “the most pressing need from our point of view,” added Edwards.
Among the measures Edwards did not like were measures in the package toward testing the idea of a vehicle mileage tax as an alternative to the fuel tax to fund highways.[Related: Inside the debate over VMT, or a miles tax, to fund roads]
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) applauded the passage of the bill, saying it “represents a significant investment in our country’s roads and bridges and provides a desperately needed injection into the Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent. . We are delighted that this language provides an opportunity to expose a younger population to an industry that welcomes them … “
The American Trucking Associations and the TCA have long supported legislation that would allow drivers under the age of 21 to drive interstate – removing the intrastate restriction – and see education as a solution to address a perceived driver shortage that , according to ATA, reached 80,000.
The bill was particularly absent from the pro-union PRO Bill Bill, which trucking companies had long opposed as a threat to the business model of independent contractors in the industry. However, funding for increasing truck parking capacity was also lacking.
“Congress has missed opportunities to improve trucking by not responding to parking shortages as well as detention, which would have helped meet supply chain challenges,” said Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in a press release to Overdrive.
NATSO, the trade association representing truck stops and traffic areas, noted that subsidy programs established by the Law on Infrastructure Investments and Jobs encourage investment in a range of alternative fuels, including ‘electricity, hydrogen, biofuels and natural gas,’ enabling the benefits of innovation and technological development, which will provide consumers with options, while competing for their business in terms of price, speed and quality of service. ”
NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings further applauded the lack of legislation that would have allowed states to compete with the private sector by installing electric vehicle charging stations in rest areas and that alternative refueling locations should take into account the availability of equipment such as food and toilets.
“We appreciate that Congress provided essential funding for US highways without tolls on interstate highways or commercialization of rest areas,” she said, “which would have discouraged the private sector from investing. in the charging of electric vehicles and other emerging technologies “.[Related: Battery-electric truck demonstration earns award]
As part of a deal to move the infrastructure bill forward, House progressives have agreed to a vote to advance the Build Back Better reconciliation measure to the House floor next week. On this “social spending” legislation, as some have called it, Jim Edwards of the NASTC noted that the association had actually opposed the taxation and spending aspects of this bill, fearing that the impacts do not weigh heavily on small businesses.
As early as Friday, November 5, he was comforted by the fact that special tax regimes targeting private companies such as small trucking operators, which had been the subject of earlier iterations, did not appear to be included in the most recent versions. most recent budget. legislation.
“We have made it known to Congress that the asking price for reconciliation… is too high,” Edwards said, in terms of both “dollar value and content. We have warned them that they are playing with a tax hidden in inflation – what they are doing is going to continue to exacerbate inflation and heavily tax small and independent businesses, as well as large corporations, “the more often called in rhetoric for not paying a fair share.