On August 10, 2021, the United States Senate passed a massive $1 trillion infrastructure bill, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The bill allocates $110 billion to bridges and roads and approximately $50 billion for cyberattack defense and long term natural disaster preparation.
In addition to the $110 billion dedicated to repairing, renovating, and installing new bridges and roads, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act establishes several new programs and studies that have the potential to significantly overhaul the commercial trucking landscape over the next three to five years, including the following:
· Owner-Operator Lease Agreements: The bill calls for the establishment of a “Truck Leasing Task Force” to investigate the lease agreements between motor carriers and owner-operators and to evaluate how such agreements impact roadway safety, carbon gas emissions, vehicle maintenance, and driver compensation.
· Underride Protection Standards: The bill recommends the creation of an Advisory Committee on Underride Protection to strengthen standards for rear trailer underride guards. This Advisory Committee comes in the wake of the “Stop Underrides Act” bill which was introduced in March of 2021 that sought to require underride guards on the sides and front of all new trucks.
· Emergency Braking: The bill directs the Department of Transportation to conduct a study into the feasibility of mandating automatic emergency brakes on all new commercial motor vehicles.
· Commercial Automobile Crashes: The bill directs the Department of Transportation to conduct a thorough study on the causes of commercial vehicle collisions.
· Young Driver Apprentice Pilot Program: The bill establishes an apprenticeship pilot program for commercial driver’s license holders under the age of 21. The pilot program would allow drivers under the age of 21 to operate a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce as long as the vehicles are equipped with automatic transmission, forward facing video, active braking collision mitigation system, and a governed speed of 65 mph. Additionally, specific probationary periods are required where an experienced driver rides in the passenger seat with the apprentice driver.
· Women of Trucking Advisory Board: The bill requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish a Women of Trucking Advisory Board in light of the fact that women make up 47% of the workforce in the United States, but account for only 6.6% of truck drivers and 8% of freight firm owners.
While the Act establishes several groundbreaking programs and studies, several highly controversial and negotiated topics were left out of the final version of the bill, such as:
· Trucking Parking Funding: The bill does not allocate any money specifically for truck parking.
· Minimum Insurance Requirement for Motor Carriers: The final version of the bill did not call for an increase in the minimum insurance requirement for motor carriers from $750,000 to $2 million. The minimum insurance requirement for motor carriers remains at $750,000 for commercial trucks weighing at least 10,001 lbs.
The bill is set to land on the floor of the House of Representative for a vote in September before going to President Biden. Clearly, this bill will bring new opportunities, challenges, rules and regulations to the ever-evolving trucking industry. Thus, the trucking community will need to keep up with the latest requirements and trends as this monumental bill has the potential to reshape the landscape of commercial trucking industry.
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