The House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure on Tuesday passed a package of bills intended to address supply chain challenges and improve overall safety in transportation.
The bundle included bills to allocate funding to add truck parking capacity, provide flexibility in CDL testing and provide weight flexibility for certain haulers.
Each of the bills passed by the committee will still have to pass the full House before moving to the Senate and, if passed there, President Joe Biden’s desk.
The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act would establish a competitive grant program to fund truck parking projects across the country. The bill would create $755 million for the projects.
The Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safely and Efficiently (LICENSE) Act of 2023, first introduced last year, would make permanent two DOT waivers that provide flexibility for licensing qualified new drivers and improve the application process for individuals seeking CDLs by allowing skills test examiners to also administer the CDL knowledge test, and to administer a driving skills test to any applicant regardless of the applicant's state of domicile or training. The waivers were extended multiple times during the COVID-19 pandemic by both the Trump and Biden administrations with no findings that they adversely affect safety.
[Related: COVID HOS waivers should open the door for greater hours flexibility]
The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Integrity Act of 2023, as reported last week, is aimed at boosting participation in FMCSA’s under-21 interstate driver pilot program by requiring the agency to make adjustments to the program to spur participation.
The committee also passed the Motor Carrier Safety Selection Standard Act, which would require shippers and brokers to use carriers that are not deemed unfit to operate safely under current federal regulations, whether that means having an Unsatisfactory rating or inactive authority. Additionally, within 18 months of the bill’s passage, FMCSA would be required to issue a rulemaking to update and revise its regulations to provide a procedure for determining if a motor carrier is not fit to operate.
The Carrying Automobiles Responsibly and Safely (CARS) Act would provide a 10% weight tolerance specifically for stinger-steered automobile transporters hauling heavier hybrid and electric passenger cars to market. Without exceeding federal bridge weight limits, this bill would reduce the number of miles traveled by trucks that currently must complete multiple trips because they are unable to fully load their equipment due to current weight limits.
Another weight related bill, the Dry Bulk Weight Tolerance Act, would allow a 10% weight tolerance (in vehicles loaded at or below federal weight limits) for dry bulk carriers to account for the shifting of cargo during transit. The flexibility increases the efficient movement of dry bulk cargo, including agricultural goods, and would ensure that companies moving those goods are not penalized due to shifting weights due to braking and other standard events.
Finally, H.R. 3447 would provide a 2,000-pound weight exemption to hydrogen-powered vehicles, similar to the exemption currently applied to both battery-electric and natural gas-powered heavy-duty trucks. This legislation would reduce emissions while restoring technology- and fuel-neutrality in federal regulations for companies investing in new, cleaner heavy-duty vehicles, proponents say.
[Related: House votes in favor of EPA emission regs rollback]