By Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, Consultants to Axele
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has several dozen policy provisions of interest to the trucking industry. These can be grouped into several categories:
- Small business representation. The The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would add a “small business” requirement for participation on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee. Since at least 90% of the trucking industry are small businesses, the result would be more equitable representation of the industry.
- Women in Trucking Advisory Board. This would establish a board of up to eight individuals representing all sizes of trucking companies to encourage more women to enter trucking. Recent research indicates that female drivers may be generally safer than their male counterparts.
- Truck Leasing Task Force. This provision is focused on lease purchase agreements between motor carriers and owner-operators and their impacts on the net compensation of CMV drivers, the maintenance and repair of vehicles, whether they incentivize safe operation and compliance, and providing resources to drivers to assess the financial impacts of these agreements. The outcome could be to discourage the use of these lease purchase agreements, which would negatively impact carriers that rely on this model.
- Automatic Emergency Braking. This would initiate a rulemaking to require AEB systems on large commercial vehicles and to conduct a study to see if it makes sense to do so on smaller CMVs. The AAA Foundation has found that if all trucks had these systems, more than 5,000 crashes would be avoided, along with 2,800 injuries and 55 fatalities.
- Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). This provision would direct FMCSA to investigate and ensure that personal information on ELDs is not being misused.
- Alternative fuel and autonomous vehicles. The IIJA also has an emphasis on alternative fueled and electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, as well as autonomous vehicles and related technologies.
Safety and Enforcement
- Crash Causation Study. The last major study on large truck crash causation was completed in 2006. This provision would direct FMCSA to conduct a comprehensive multi-year study on the causes and contributing factors to crashes involving commercial vehicles and would expand the sample size – to 2,000 crashes – over the previous study.
- Rear Underride Guards. This would require regulations to strengthen rear impact guards on CMVs to assist in reducing the severity of rear underride crashes. It would also require additional research to protect against crashes up to 65 miles per hour, to study whether side impact guards are necessary, and establish an Advisory Committee. It would also add the inspection of underride guards to the periodic inspection requirements.
- Marijuana-impaired driving. Would require states that have legalized marijuana to consider programs to educate drivers on the risks associated with marijuana-impaired driving.
- Distracted driving. Improves programs addressing distracted and impaired driving, and to conduct research on monitoring systems.
- CMV Enforcement. Provides additional support for CMV Enforcement Training and provides discretionary grants to train non-federal law enforcement on how to interact with CMVs off major roadways, which is a segment of the industry that typically experiences less oversight.
- Younger driver apprenticeship program. Would establish an apprenticeship pilot program to determine if younger drivers (between 18-20) can safely operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce. The pilot is a 3-year program limited to 3,000 participants, who will be allowed to drive a CMV across state lines provided the vehicle is equipped with selected safety technology and drivers are closely monitored by a ride-along mentor.
What is not in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
What is equally important is what is not in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Industry was pleased that several contentious provisions were jettisoned from the bill. These include required changes to CSA and the Safety Rating process, initiatives impacting hours of service rules including using ELDs for research, new rules for drivers with obstructive sleep apnea, and an increase in insurance minimums. It’s worth noting however, that most of these provisions do not require Congressional authorization to implement, meaning the Biden Administration could act on them on its own. Two noteworthy omissions from the bill were funding support for increasing truck parking availability and any mention of mandating speed limiters on CMVs.
Overall, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a step forward for trucking and safety. While not perfect, the increased funding levels and the majority of the trucking provisions are viewed favorably by many in government and industry. The unknown is what priorities the Biden Administration might pursue independent of Congress, given that a number of Democratic priorities did not make their way into the final bill. Sadly, the bill fails to address the structural problem that still exists with the HTF and instead opts to study new user fee systems and implement pilot programs, like a fee on miles traveled, to examine alternative funding options.