Congress piecing together multiyear highway bill

For the Record



House and Senate conferees have started work to pass a two-year surface transportation funding bill — the first multiyear bill in seven years.

Conference members met for the first time May 8 to work on a compromise between House and Senate proposals. Funding had been provided through a three-month extension that ended June 30.

While the House and Senate bills are similar in length and scope, the House’s version of the bill addresses practically none of the policy included in the Senate bill. The inclusion of the environmental policy and the Keystone Pipeline, both of which drew veto threats from the White House, indicate that conference could be difficult.

Also in the omnibus bills are several other points that could impact owner-operators, including an electronic onboard recorder mandate, which the American Trucking Association is actively campaigning for and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is vehemently against.

The House bill includes measures to fight broker fraud in the transportation industry by raising surety bonding minimums from $10,000 to $100,000.

Both Senate and House versions propose to increase from $122 million to $1 billion annual funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which has come under fire by OOIDA recently for providing funding for too many public-private toll projects.

Other groups, like the Truck Rental and Leasing Association, are urging Congress to extend in the bill expiring tax incentives aimed at accelerating the production of natural gas resources and utilizing the alternative fuel in the industry.

The supported incentives include tax credits and rebates for fuel production, fuel purchases, infrastructure development and vehicle purchases.

Conference Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the Senate’s version of the bill would protect and create three million jobs, including highway projects credited by TIFIA. The bill also would whittle 90 highway programs to fewer than 30, eliminate earmarks and establish a new freight program, she said.