As an industry that relies on our nation’s roads to move goods from place to place, it is refreshing to see Congress finally acting on behalf of infrastructure improvements.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved a six-year, $325 billion bill to fund our nation’s surface roads. The Senate approved a similar plan in July. The legislation is now before House and Senate conferees to reconcile the two bills. Both chambers will then have to approve the conference version. Hopefully, it will soon be in front of President Obama for his signature.
One of the significant measures in the House bill is a National Highway Freight Network that will provide funds and structure for connections to ports and intermodal facilities. This is an important piece considering that these connections are vital to logistics operations.
Another key provision is the requirement that the Department of Transportation set up a program to investigate granting modified commercial driving licenses to what it terms “novice licensed drivers.” These would be drivers between 19 years, 6 months and 21 years of age. Currently commercial licenses are available only for drivers over 21. This potentially opens the doors to a pool of drivers before they begin other careers and should help to fill the ranks where shortages have been persistent for years. Personally, I feel this should extend to drivers 18 and up, but this is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the House also killed a provision that would have raised the weight limit for trucks from the current 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds. This is despite evidence that shows such a raise would better utilize existing capacity without compromising safety. It would reduce miles driven, energy consumed, and the total number of vehicles on our highways. Hopefully such a measure will be considered again in the future.
On the whole, it was a good week for transportation advocates.