House passes highway bill containing huge trucker insurance hike, HOS rule delay

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill containing two controversial provisions that could have a massive impact on the trucking industry.

On July 1, the House passed the Moving Forward America (MFA) Act by a vote of 233 to 188.

Infrastructure Bill Includes Big Trucker Insurance Increase

While the MFA Act will provide much needed funding for repairs to roads and bridges, it also currently contains a measure introduced by Illinois Rep. Chuy Garcia to increase commercial vehicle minimum insurance liability requirements from $750,000 to $2 million.

Garcia said that the insurance hike is meant to benefit the families of crash victims, but many members of the trucking industry say that it could spell disaster for companies already struggling with the challenges of hauling through a pandemic in a time of nationwide civil unrest.

A counter-amendment to strike Garcia’s trucker insurance hike was introduced by Illinois Rep. Mike Bost but lawmakers passed on voting it into the infrastructure bill.

Democrats Want Delay of New HOS Rules

In addition to the insurance increase, the MFA Act also contains a provision to seriously delay the implementation of the new Hours of Service (HOS) rules by requiring that the FMCSA perform a comprehensive review of the regulations to determine their safety impact.

Per the language of the bill, the results of the review would have to be published in the Federal Register no later than 18 months after the start of the review and given a public comment period before changes to HOS regulations could take effect.

While the new HOS rules are currently set to go into effect on September 29, 2020, the bill could put this start date in jeopardy.

You can view the four key changes to HOS rules below.

  • The Agency will increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status.
  • The Agency will modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  • The Agency will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • The Agency will change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

Other significant changes for the trucking industry tucked into the bill include the creation of a truck lease-purchase task force, $250 million for truck parking, a push for more clarity on personal conveyance rules, and new rules related to unpaid driver detention.

White House & Senate Republicans Oppose Infrastructure Bill

While the controversial legislation passed the House, it still faces an uphill battle in becoming law as both Trump’s White House and Senate Republicans say that they do not approve the measure.

“The House Democrats’ infrastructure bill is a dead end and has no chance of becoming law. It’s a road to nowhere,” stated Republican Senator John Barrasso.