Congress reaches highway funding deal
By: Phil Sneed
After months of negotiations, Congress has finally reached a deal on a highway transportation funding bill. The five-year deal has been long awaited, according to Politico. In previous months, Congress would pass short-term fixes that often lasted months.
While it was widely expected a deal would be reached, politicians were still racing against the clock to come to an agreement. They had until Dec. 4 to do so, as that was when the U.S. Department of Transportation said they would stop making payments for projects to local governments.
This agreement represents the first time a long-term highway funding bill has been passed since the George W. Bush administration.
"Congress has finally reached a deal on a highway transportation funding bill."
Details of the bill
While exact details have yet to be released, there remains a pretty clear idea of what it provides. According to Bloomberg Business, the bill, over the course of six years, will provide $281 billion to be used bridges, roads and mass transportation.
Disagreements arose over the financing of the bill, with some politicians believing too many gimmicks were used mainly because the federal gas tax was not increased. It will remain at 18.4 cents per gallon, although.
The bill also includes other provisions the trucking industry may find helpful over the next five years. One could provide the blueprint to help alleviate the ongoing driver shortage by allowing teenagers to operate commercial motor vehicles.
Negotiators reached a compromise by creating a pilot program. Instead of allowing every teen to drive a semi-trailer, the pilot will target young veterans.
"Look, we're giving them arms and asking them to protect our freedom," Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan told Politico in an interview. She added she thinks it's OK to let young veterans drive a truck.
One caveat may remain, according to Senator Barbara Boxer of California, as she said Congress may end up having to pass a short-term extension to allow for a signing ceremony during the second week of December, which the president is expected to sign.
The funding bill is a step toward repairing some of the crumbling infrastructure that has shown to have a negative effect on the trucking industry. With it also comes a possible solution to let new drivers enter the industry.