A $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that includes billions of dollars for roads and bridges and creates a program that will bring younger drivers into the trucking industry was approved November 5 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to federal data, about one out of every five miles of U.S. highways and major roads are in poor condition. Nearly 45,000 bridges are also rated poor. The infrastructure bill reauthorizes surface transportation programs through 2026, replacing the Obama-era FAST Act. According to the White House, spending from the package could support more than 700,000 new jobs, including more than 100,000 new jobs in the transportation industry.
“Roads and bridges are not political—we all drive on them,” Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, said after the bill’s passage on Friday night. “A majority in the House realized this today and did what’s right for the country, not themselves. From farmers to truckers, the millions of hard-working people who make this country great won today. Those lawmakers who put their constituents before themselves to help seal this achievement have cemented a lasting legacy that the American people will now see, feel, and use for many decades to come.”
The bill will also create a training and apprenticeship program for drivers younger than 21 to drive Class 8 trucks in interstate commerce. The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy, or DRIVE, Safe Act, was sponsored by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and included in the legislation.
“We are very pleased that this bill contains a pilot version of the DRIVE Safe Act,” said MTA President John Hausladen. “In 2015, the MTA created and shared its vision for a younger driver pilot program that is very close the provisions contained in this bill. This is a huge win for the industry, and the hard working members of our MTA Younger Driver Project Team.”
According to ATA, the bill will provide a 38 percent increase in funding for surface transportation systems over the next five years. The increase would amount to nearly $500 billion in new funding, including $347.5 billion for highways and $37 billion for bridges. The measure advances as funding authority for the FAST Act, the nation’s underlying highway law, is set to expire December 3. Under the legislation, the FAST Act received a five-year extension.
The bill’s sponsors also argued its provisions would promote freight connectivity to alleviate supply chain woes at commercial ports.