This week, Congress will be discussing transportation infrastructure in both the House and the Senate. You will hear the bill referred to as the Transportation Bill, Highway Reauthorization, SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization, the infrastructure spending bill, or any combination of those names. No matter the name, it refers to the large, comprehensive bill that typically funds the Federal portion of our nation’s roads, bridges, and other transportation projects and maintenance. Transportation infrastructure bills also typically include a number of policy and rule changes germane to transportation. Examples of potential policy items could be adjustments to the scope and jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or it could be as specific as changing the requirements for responding to a hazardous materials spill on the roadways.
Here are 4 main discussions we will be keeping an eye on:
1. How many years of spending should the bill authorize? Advocates for a shorter bill feel the Federal budget may be in better shape in 2 to 3 years and would like a chance to pass a more robust bill later than they can realistically achieve now. On the other hand, advocates for a 5 to 6 year bill emphasize that states and transportation planners need long term certainty for infrastructure projects that take years to plan.
2. What spending level will the bill fund? Current spending is 30% lower than the level of revenue from gas and diesel taxes, registration, and excise taxes is bringing in. Will Congress choose to have spending match current revenues or can they identify new revenue sources—besides raising the gas and diesel taxes—that can bridge the gap?
3. What are potential sources of revenue? If Congress chooses to identify new revenue sources, what would those be? There has been speculation of approval for opening up new areas to oil and gas exploration to generate revenue.
4. What policy issues will be included? Congress will certainly try to address a number of issues in this bill. The bill could include measures on safety, data, or industry standards. Stay tuned, as policy measures can cover any number of issues.
On February 1, a number of industry groups—NASSTRAC, TIA, NITL, and ATA—will participate in the Stand Up For Trucking event. I will be representing C.H. Robinson and our customers to emphasize the importance of infrastructure investment to U.S. competitiveness on a global scale. Poor infrastructure costs shippers real money and Congressional leaders are interested to know how their decisions impact companies.
If you have any specific questions or would like to discuss regulatory issues in more details, please contact me or your C.H. Robinson account representative to schedule time with our government affairs experts.