U.S. House Ignores Pleas From Truckers and Passes Bill to Impose Huge Insurance Hike
Washington D.C. – The United States House of Representatives has passed a surface transportation funding reauthorization bill one major trucking group has dubbed an “anti-trucker disgrace.”
As expected, on Thursday the Democratically-controlled House approved the five-year $715 billion highway and transit funding bill called the INVEST in America Act.
The final vote of 221 to 201 was largely along partisan lines as not a single Democrat broke with his/her party and only two Republicans voted in favor.
“We have to do these things for the American people to get them out of congestion,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and sponsor of the INVEST Act, told reporters on Wednesday. “We have to do it for American business so that their trucks aren’t sitting in traffic and costing them money. This is the moment. We have to be bold and this is the bill.”
The INVEST Act is packed with highly contentious measures which would have deep impacts on the trucking industry.
Perhaps none more so than a provision which increases the minimum amount of insurance required for commercial motor vehicles (CMV) from $750,000 to $2 million, and directs this amount to be adjusted for inflation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) every five years.
Republicans fought to have the provision stripped from the bill, but were defeated by Democrats.
Additionally, the legislation calls for requiring newly manufactured heavy-duty CMVs to be equipped with an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system, and mandating that systems installed in such vehicles be in use during operation.
It also requires the FMCSA to, within one year, initiate a rulemaking to establish screening criteria for obstructive sleep apnea among CMV drivers.
Moreover, the INVEST Act gives the FMCSA a green light to begin using truckers’ electronic logging device (ELD) data for research on a possible national vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) tax program for heavy duty trucks.
Current federal law only allows ELD data to be collected for the purpose of determining hours of service (HOS) compliance.
These provisions, and many more, led the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) to deem the INVEST Act an “anti-trucker disgrace.”
In fact, a broad coalition of 60 trade groups, including dozens of major trucking industry associations, repeatedly implored House members not to include these measures.
Specifically related to the insurance hike provision, these groups argue that drastically increasing the insurance minimum will result in many small trucking companies being forced out of business, thus leaving them with the options to either exit the industry, lease to a larger carrier, or become a company driver.
Further, these groups warn that if Congress combines the skyrocketing costs associated with a 167% insurance increase on top of a possible reclassification of independent contractors — known as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act — already passed by the House, lawmakers will create conditions for the obliteration of many small trucking businesses.
The U.S. Senate’s version of the surface transportation reauthorization legislation does NOT include the insurance increase, but that could change once the Senate passes its bill and the two chambers go to conference.
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There are some less controversial provisions also included in the INVEST Act in which truckers can be pleased.
For instance, the bill calls for $1 billion to be set aside to address the truck parking shortage crisis.
Notably, the INVEST Act has the backing of the American Trucking Associations, the industry’s most powerful and influential lobbying group on Capitol Hill.
TransportationNation.com will continue to track this legislation closely.