An apprenticeship pilot for drivers younger than 21 was included in the Infrastructure Bill recently passed by the US Senate. The pilot closely mirrors the Younger Driver Training Proposal submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by the MTA. The MTA has aggressively worked to expand opportunities for younger drivers to enter the industry. This was a key topic discussed during the last MTA Call on Washington.
1. Infrastructure nears the finish line. In a strong, bipartisan vote of 69-30 Tuesday morning, the Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill authorizes $477 billion in new funding over the next five years for surface transportation programs, including $347.5 billion for highways — a 38% boost above levels set by the last highway reauthorization bill, the FAST Act. It also provides a $37 billion for bridges — the greatest investment in our nation's bridge network since the formation of the Interstate Highway System.
ATA fought victoriously to include crucial workforce development provisions for our industry in the package. The bill establishes a three-year, national pilot program based on the DRIVE-Safe Act, authorizing up to 3,000 18-20-year-old drivers at any one time to undergo advanced safety training in order to participate in interstate commerce. It also establishes a Women in Trucking Advisory Board for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and funds a DOT advertisement campaign to promote workforce needs in trucking and other transportation sectors.
On safety policy, the bill contains a compromise provision requiring automatic electronic braking systems on new heavy-duty commercial vehicles. This AEB requirement would go into effect two years after the legislation’s enactment. It includes language to strengthen efforts addressing distracted driving in passenger vehicles and risks associated with marijuana-impaired driving. It also directs DOT to conduct a comprehensive CMV crash causation study.
Equally important is what’s not included in the bill. ATA fought tooth and nail to keep harmful, anti-trucking measures out of the package, such as labor provisions from the PRO Act, independent contractor reclassification, truck-only Vehicle Miles Traveled taxes, a rollback of meal and rest break preemption, side underride guard mandates, hours-of-service reform rollbacks, and a returning of CSA scores to public view.
Federal infrastructure investment has long been a top strategic priority for our association and industry, and this bill brings us one step closer to making that goal a reality. The groundwork we laid over several years is paying off. By forging close working relationships with committee chairmen and influential legislators from both sides of the aisle, in both the House and Senate, we put ourselves in a strong position to shape this final outcome within the current political realities. While not perfect, this bill will deliver measurable returns for the trucking industry, alleviating costly freight bottlenecks throughout the National Highway System and providing access to new talent pools to grow and strengthen our driver workforce.
What comes next: The bill now moves to the House for consideration. Speaker Pelosi has said she will only take it up after the House votes on a budget resolution. However, she's now under increasing pressure from moderates within her caucus to move on infrastructure first.