Trucking excluded from freight bill

Transportation groups are backing a congressional bill meant to improve and coordinate freight policy in the federal government and states while adding an infrastructure grants program. Trucking though is not mentioned in the bill, which focuses on rail, ports and intermodal without mentioning trucking.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation Act July 22. The FREIGHT Act, or S. 3629, would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop and implement a National Freight Transportation Strategic Plan and create an Office of Freight Planning and Development.

While the bill includes funding eligibility for rail projects, trucking is not mentioned. Projects that can receive grants are for port development or improvement, multi-modal terminal facilities, land port of entries, freight rail improvement or capacity expansion and an intelligent transportation system project primarily for freight benefit that reduces congestion, improves safety or plans that improve port or terminal access.

Rail has received increased attention nationally as a method to reduce diesel pollution and road traffic. Some ports have added or are implementing short-haul freight services to decrease truck trips.

The groups backing the legislation include the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, Environmental Defense Fund, Transportation for America and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association. Trucking organizations have not publicly issued a statement on the proposed legislation.

The act’s goals include reducing freight transportation-related fatalities 10 percent by 2015 and cutting national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide by 40 percent by 2030.

The strategic plan is to guide and inform of goods movement infrastructure investments. The act also establishes an Office of Freight Planning and Development, headed by an Assistant Secretary for Freight Planning and Development. The legislation would require the transportation department to report the plan’s progress.

Further, it would add the National Freight Infrastructure Grants initiative, for competitive, merit-based grants with broad eligibility for multimodal freight investment. It would strive to maximize fund benefits.

Democrat Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are bill co-sponsors.

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