After months of debate and negotiations, Congress passed a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill in November, one of the largest appropriations measures ever undertaken by Congress.

The final hurdle was the U.S. House passing the legislation the Senate adopted in August. And while not everyone is happy with the final version signed into law by President Biden, the legislation contains several trucking provisions worth noting. PrePass has written twice about this process, most recently in July and earlier in April.

The bill includes a five-year surface transportation reauthorization, sending $450 billion to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), of which $300 billion will go to highways. As with all appropriations measures, the new law contains congressional intent and directions on how the USDOT and its agencies utilize those funds. Here are the provisions that impact trucking and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

Equipment provisions

  • Automatic emergency braking will become standard on new trucks after a mandated rulemaking in the next two years.
  • Rear underride guards will need to meet the higher strength standards already common on more recent trailer models while the agency will study side underride guards, as will the prevention of underride by passenger cars traveling at 65 mph, compared to today’s 35 mph underride standard.
  • Electronic logging devices are already mandatory for many trucking operations, but the infrastructure bill requires an ELD oversight study on just how FMCSA utilizes the data obtained from ELDs, specifically including any proprietary or personally identifiable data.

Operational provisions

  • Under-21 age drivers will be allowed to operate trucks in interstate commerce under an “Apprenticeship Pilot Program.” The younger drivers will be paired in the cab with an experienced driver-mentor and required to successfully complete 120-hour and a 280-hour probationary periods focused on different aspects of truck driving. Operations will take place in commercial motor vehicles equipped with advanced safety technologies, similar to what was proposed in the Drive-SAFE Act. The legislation limits the apprenticeship program to 3,000 participants at any one time.
  • Livestock haulers will receive an hours of service exemption for a 150 air-mile radius of their final destination.

Advisory groups and studies

  • The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee is reauthorized through 2025. This federally-appointed group of trucking, labor and safety representatives brings real-world input to FMCSA.
  • A two-year study will focus on strategies to increase the number of women in trucking.
  • Efforts to counter human trafficking in the trucking industry will receive added funding, including a study of human trafficking violations in commercial motor vehicles.
  • A Truck Leasing Task Force will look at leasing practices in the trucking industry, their effect on vehicle maintenance and highway safety, and their impact on port drivers and owner/operators.

Watch these studies closely

  • Over the next four years the DOT, with input from the states, will conduct a Highway Cost Allocation Study. Past cost allocation studies have assigned percentages of roadway construction and repair costs to certain classes of vehicles based on the weights and the percentage of those vehicles in the traffic stream. This time the study must also consider “the safety-, emissions-, congestion-, and noise-related costs of highway use.” Cost allocation influences truck tax rates at the federal and state levels.
  • Speaking of taxes, there will be a Mileage Tax Study. Participation in the study is voluntary and aimed at all classes of vehicles. But it will examine how the government can obtain mileage data from on-board devices, smart phones, state records and fuel reports.
  • DOT will also undertake a Commercial Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study. The frequency and severity of truck and bus crashes may influence future FMCSA regulations.

What is NOT in the Infrastructure Bill