The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill to create a national freight program that its sponsors said would boost America’s global economic competitiveness, improve its mobility and promote energy conservation.
The bill was one of four the committee approved Dec. 14 in connection with a larger, two-year transportation reauthorization measure moving through the Senate.
Under the freight program, the federal government would develop goals for freight transportation and make strategic investments in projects that relieve congestion and speed the movement of goods on highways, rail and water.
The proposal recognizes “the importance of efficiently and safely moving goods” in order to keep businesses competitive and create jobs, said its sponsor, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
“The fundamental infrastructure, highway infrastructure, was done in the 1950s,” Lautenberg said. “We were 170 million people in this country. We’re now 310 million people . . . and the infrastructure is wobbly, shaky, and unsafe in many areas.”
In a letter sent to the committee before the vote, however, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said the industry is “concerned that neither the source nor the amount of funding for the new freight funding program has been specified.”
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) tried unsuccessfully to kill the proposed freight program, saying that trucking was worried Highway Trust Fund money would be diverted to support the program as well as the proposed new freight office within the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Lautenberg and other senators supporting the freight proposal said trust fund money would not be used.
Graves in his letter applauded the committee for moving a reauthorization bill closer to reality and commended the senators for their “efforts to produce a bill that will have a positive impact on truck safety.”
The legislation proposes a mandate for electronic onboard recorders on all trucks and buses. ATA has called for an EOBR mandate, a measure opposed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association... Continue reading.