Speed Limiter Mandate, Insurance Hike And More Expected To Be In Upcoming Highway Bill
Washington D.C. – A political battle over a slew of issues impacting the trucking industry is brewing on Capitol Hill.
Next month Congress will again take up surface transportation reauthorization legislation — often referred to as the “Highway Bill.”
What is expected to be a five-year funding reauthorization for federal highway programs will also likely be filled with highly contentious issues within the trucking community.
Multiple trusted sources tell Transportation Nation Network (TNN) the Highway Bill is expected to include provisions such as: mandating speed limiters for all heavy trucks, increasing motor carriers’ liability insurance minimum from $750,000 to at least $2 million, requiring front and side underride guards on big rigs, and re-instituting an Obama-era rulemaking to strengthen sleep apnea screening criteria for commercial drivers.
Other issues to watch closely that could also make their way into the legislation include: requiring crash avoidance technologies such as automatic emergency braking (AEB) to come as standard equipment on all new heavy trucks, strengthening CO2 emissions requirements for heavy trucks, imposing a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) tax on both passenger vehicles and heavy trucks, and possibly even halting certain provisions of the Trump-era Hours of Service (HOS) final rule.
Biden Administration Under Pressure From Key Supporters
Earlier this year, highway safety groups like the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), urged President Joe Biden to take “direct and swift action” to require speed limiters as well as front and side underride guards for all big rigs.
Most recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for requiring speed limiters in its “Most Wanted” list of 2021.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, another major constituency of the Democratic party, is also pushing the Biden Administration for action on HOS.
In an exclusive statement to TNN, Sam Loesche, a Teamsters legislative representative, said the group is “exploring all options” on ways to roll back the Trump Administration’s signature trucking regulatory accomplishment.
At the same time, trial lawyers and even some influential trucking groups such as the Alliance are demanding Congress dramatically increase motor carriers’ insurance liability minimum.
As TNN reported earlier this year, the negotiations on this issue are expected to begin at over $4 million.
The Battle Within Trucking
While there will be strong opposition among most trucking groups to measures such as requiring front and side underride guards and rolling back the newly implemented HOS rules, there will also be intense disagreement on others.
For instance, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) strongly support mandating speed limiters, while groups such as the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association, National Association of Small Trucking Companies and the Small Business in Transportation Coalition adamantly oppose it.
The battle over increasing the liability insurance minimum could be the most fierce though.
Strong disagreement already exists within the memberships of ATA and TCA on this issue.
While many stakeholders support lifting the minimum to $1 million, which most motor carriers already carry anyway, larger carriers support going much higher, even as high as $4-5 million.
Dan Doran is a 45-year trucking executive and recent past chairman of TCA, so he knows the ins and outs of this battle very well.
“Big carriers want the $4 million or more because they carry it already and want everybody else to have to do the same,” he recently told TNN. “They are doing everything they can to eliminate competition. There’s going to be a lot of small companies who won’t be able to afford it. It’s just going to mean more consolidation all the way down.”
The mark up on the Highway Bill will begin in May and a vote in the House and Senate on the final version is expected in September.
Stay with TransportationNation.com for the latest developments on each of these issues in the days and weeks ahead.