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DeFazio reminds committee of truckers’ sacrifices

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During a hearing to discuss how the coronavirus pandemic has affected transportation workers, Rep. Peter DeFazio, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, spent his opening remarks reminding lawmakers of the sacrifices truckers and other transportation workers have been making.

“While the coronavirus has left many industries reeling, few have been as hard hit as the transportation industry,” DeFazio said.

“Truck drivers played a vital role in the early response to COVID-19, keeping grocery stores stocked with supplies and transporting personal protective equipment and other medical equipment across the country. All the while, rest stops and restaurants across the country were closing, increasing the discomfort and challenge of doing an already difficult job.”

The House T&I hearing titled “On the Front Lines: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Transportation Workers” took place Tuesday, June 9.

DeFazio’s remarks came days after he unveiled a nearly $500 billion highway bill.

The INVEST in America Act would authorize $494 billion over five years to tackle the nation’s infrastructure needs.

“The bulk of our nation’s infrastructure – our roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems, the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day – is not only badly outdated. In many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back,” DeFazio said in a news release. “Yet for decades, Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls for an overhaul and instead simply poured money into short-term patches. The result? We’re still running our economy on an inefficient, 1950s-era system that costs Americans increasingly more time and money while making the transportation sector the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution.”

While OOIDA stopped short of calling the bill perfect, the Association did say that several trucker-friendly provisions were included. OOIDA specifically mentioned increased funding for highway construction, $250 million for truck parking projects, new restrictions on tolling, provisions that will help limit excessive detention time and predatory lease-to-own schemes, as well as further analysis on H-1B visa use within the industry.

The bill also kept out several potential provisions that OOIDA opposes, including the DRIVE-Safe Act, a speed limiter mandate, and an increase in minimum insurance requirements.

“Our efforts to shape trucking policies in this proposal have been largely successful,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said. “We’ve worked very closely with the chairman to ensure this bill addresses some of the top priorities of truckers while making certain it doesn’t include several policies that would hurt small trucking businesses. I think there’s a lot to like about this bill if you’re an OOIDA member, but some aspects will need to be improved.”

The T&I Committee will consider the INVEST in America Act at a markup meeting scheduled for June 17.