President Biden Announces $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan.  Last week President Biden announced his “American Jobs Plan” to spend over $2 trillion in an eight-year period on infrastructure and other projects.  The plan, which has not been introduced in Congress or even reduced to actual legislative language, includes a number of proposals that Democrats have long sought.

The plan includes a total increase of $115 billion to modernize the bridges, highways, roads, and streets that are in most critical need of repair. According to the White House, this includes funding to improve air quality, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce congestion.  The plan also calls for $85 billion to modernize transit facilities and vehicles and $80 billion for Amtrak and to enhance passenger and freight rail service.

The President additionally wants to provide $174 billion in tax incentives and rebates to encourage investment in electric vehicles, and establish grant and incentive programs for state and local governments and the private sector to build a national network of 500,000 EV charging stations by 2030.  The plan would also replace 50,000 publicly-owned diesel transit vehicles and electrify the federal fleet, including the United States Postal Service vehicles.

In addition to traditional infrastructure projects, the President’s plan calls for spending to address clean drinking water, expanding access to high-speed broadband Internet service, and improving the electric grid.  It would also offer $31 billion in programs to give small business access to credit, venture capital and research and development funding through “community-based small business incubators and innovation hubs.”

Further, the plan calls for Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would adopt the California rule to redefine who is an employee versus an independent contractor and impose new restrictions on management opposition to union organizing.

The plan does not call for any increases in federal gasoline or diesel fuel taxes or create a vehicle miles traveled tax.  Instead, to finance this spending plan the President proposes to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% with a minimum tax of 21% on U.S. corporations’ overseas income.  It would encourage a global agreement among countries to establish a high minimum corporate income tax to discourage shopping for tax havens.

The plan faces an uncertain future in Congress.  Democrats in both the House and Senate are close to introducing their own bills to reauthorize the federal-aid highway and bridge programs, and the tax and labor provisions of the President’s plan have drawn opposition from Republicans and even some Democrats in Congress.

DRIVE Safe Act Reintroduced in House and Senate.  Members of the House and Senate have reintroduced the “Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act” or “DRIVE Safe Act,” as H.R. 1745 and S. 659.  The bills would allow 18-20 year-olds to drive commercial motor vehicles, including vehicles transporting hazardous materials, in interstate commerce under certain safeguards and conditions.

The bill, which was first introduced in the last Congress, would require completion of two separate probationary periods before a driver under 21 years of age could drive a CMV in interstate commerce.

The first probationary period would require a minimum of 120 on-duty hours, with at least 80 hours behind the wheel of a CMV accompanied by an experienced driver.  The apprentice would have to pass established performance benchmarks, including: interstate, city traffic, rural 2-lane, and evening driving; safety awareness; speed and space management; lane control; mirror scanning; right and left turns; and logging and complying with rules relating to hours of service.

The second probationary period would require a minimum of 280 on-duty hours, with at least 160 hours behind the wheel of a CMV. The apprentice would have to pass additional performance benchmarks, including: backing and maneuvering in close quarters; pre-trip inspections; fueling procedures; weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems; coupling and uncoupling procedure; and trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation, and permits.

During the probationary periods, the apprentice would be allowed to drive a CMV only if it is equipped with an automatic manual or automatic transmission; an active braking collision mitigation system; forward-facing video event capture; and a governed speed of 65 miles per  hour at the pedal and under adaptive cruise control.  In addition, while operating a CMV the apprentice would have to be accompanied by an experienced CMV driver.

GAWDA, along with 63 other trade associations, supports enactment of this legislation, which is an attempt to mitigate the driver shortage throughout the trucking industry.  The American Trucking Associations has produced a fact sheet on the legislation.

Truck Parking Bill Introduced in House.  Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) has introduced H.R. 2187, a bill to set aside $755 million over five years to provide parking for commercial motor vehicles on the Federal-aid highway system or on a facility with reasonable access to a Federal-aid highway or a freight facility.

Under the legislation, eligible projects would include constructing safety rest areas that include parking for commercial motor vehicles; constructing CMV parking facilities adjacent to private commercial truck stops and travel plazas, within the boundaries of, or adjacent to, a publicly owned freight facility, including a port terminal operated by a 18 public authority; and  at existing facilities, including inspection and weigh stations and park and-ride locations.  The bill would also allow funding to convert existing weigh stations and rest areas to facilities for the exclusive use of CMV parking.

Coalition Working Group Releases Report on Vehicles Miles Traveled Tax Meeting.  The Eastern Transportation Coalition has released a report on the February 2021 meeting of its Working Group on Mileage-Based User Fees (MBUF), also known as Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) taxes.  The Working Group is a collection of trucking industry representatives (including GAWDA Consultant Rick Schweitzer) who are advising the coalition of state transportation agency officials on how the country might transition from a highway tax system based on fuel usage to one based on vehicle mileage.

It is expected that the highway reauthorization bill to be considered by Congress later this year will include a nationwide pilot program to evaluate implementation of a VMT tax structure for commercial motor vehicles.

In reviewing a transition from a fuel tax to a MBUF, it became clear that vehicles with a lower miles per gallon would fare better under a uniform MBUF and vehicles with a higher MPG would fare worse under a uniform MBUF.

In addition, the Working Group members expressed concerns about reporting burdens, fairness, potential for evasion, and accuracy of mileage capture.

NTSB Adopts List of Most Wanted Safety Improvements for 2021-22. The National Transportation Safety Board has updated its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for 2021-22.  The list serves as the agency’s primary advocacy tool to help save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce property damage resulting from transportation accidents. The NTSB is primarily an accident investigation agency and has no regulatory authority of its own, however.

 For highway transportation, the top safety objectives are:

 · Implement a Comprehensive Strategy to Eliminate Speeding-Related Crashes;

· Protect Vulnerable Road Users through a Safe System Approach;

· Prevent Alcohol- and Other Drug-Impaired Driving;

· Require Collision-Avoidance and Connected-Vehicle Technologies on all Vehicles; and

· Eliminate Distracted Driving.

As to speeding, the NTSB asserts that speeding is typically defined as exceeding a speed limit, but it can also mean driving at the speed limit but too fast for road conditions. Between 2009 and 2018, speeding-related crashes resulted in nearly 100,000 fatalities-that’s close to one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States. 

Speeding can result in loss of vehicle control, which increases both the likelihood of a crash and the severity of injuries sustained. Higher vehicle speeds lead to larger changes in velocity, which, in turn, lead to higher injury severity-that’s just basic science. 

The NTSB argues that speed-limiters on large trucks, automated enforcement, expert speed analysis tools, and education campaigns are underused in our communities. These agency wants these to be implemented to address this safety problem. 

CVSA Operation Safe Driver Week Set for July 11-17 with Focus on Speeding. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has scheduled Operation Safe Driver Week for July 11-17 with an emphasis on speeding. During Operation Safe Driver Week, law enforcement personnel will be on the lookout for commercial motor vehicle drivers and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in risky driving behaviors in or around a commercial motor vehicle. Identified unsafe drivers will be pulled over and issued a citation or warning.

CVSA stated it selected speeding as its focus this year because despite a drop in roadway travel last year due to the pandemic, nationally, traffic fatalities increased. According to the National Safety Council’s preliminary estimates, the rate of death on roads last year increased 24% over the previous 12-month period, despite miles driven dropping 13%. The increase in the rate of death is the highest estimated year-over-year jump NSC has calculated in 96 years.

In addition to speeding, law enforcement personnel will be tracking other dangerous driver behaviors throughout Operation Safe Driver Week, such as reckless or aggressive driving, distracted driving, following too closely, improper lane change, failure to obey traffic control devices, failure to use a seat belt, evidence of drunk or drugged driving, etc.

TSA Proposes Revisions to HME Security Threat Assessment. The Transportation Security Administration has requested permission from the Office of Management and Budget to revise its standards for conducting Security Threat Assessments for Hazardous Materials Endorsements on Commercial Driver Licenses. 86 Fed. Reg. 18293 (April 8, 2021).

TSA is revising the collection to reflect the implementation of an online renewal or re-enrollment capability for those applicants. Active HME holders will be able to renew online before their STA expires; HME holders who have a recently expired STA will be able to reenroll online.

In addition, TSA is revising the collection to reflect the subscription of HME holders, in States serviced by TSA’s enrollment contractor, in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Rap Back Service. Once an individual is enrolled in Rap Back, TSA will not be required to collect new biometric fingerprints from the individual every five years or collect a fee from the individual for the submission of fingerprints to the FBI.

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