Grain trucking transportation bills advance

Measures approved by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are designed to help with truck driver shortage and strengthen America's supply chain.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot
Grain Trucks Waiting At Terminal To Be Unloaded
Elena Larina | BIGSTOCK.com

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced several bills designed to increase trucking capacity and allow more flexibility to address the shortage of truck drivers. 

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) contacted lawmakers to support the bills and commended the advancement.

"Our members rely on a strong trucking transportation system to move America’s food, fuel and fiber,” NGFA noted in a release. “By supporting these bills, Congress can achieve positive benefits for the environment while improving the economic competitiveness of the United States. We look forward to working with lawmakers to ensure these provisions are passed into law."

The following legislation that would most impact the grain industry was approved by Committee markup:

  • Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safety and Efficiently (LICENSE) Act of 2023 (HR 3013) sponsored by Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill. 

The bill eliminates regulatory barriers and addresses truck driver shortages by making permanent commonsense waivers issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) during the Trump administration in response to COVID-19 and extended by the Biden administration. The bill allows states and third-party examiners more flexibility in administering CDL tests and allows a state to administer driving skills tests to any out-of-state CDL applicant, regardless of where the applicant received driver training. 

“Trucking workforce shortages continue to be a persistent challenge for small businesses throughout America, and the downstream effects are harming working families,” said Rep. LaHood. “As we face unprecedented supply chain challenges, this legislation will help streamline the process to obtain a commercial driver’s license and reduce unnecessary red tape. I am pleased that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed this commonsense legislation and hope to see it come before the full House for a vote soon.”

  • 10% Axle Variance for Dry Bulk, sponsored by Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark.

The provision does not increase the overall Federal Gross Vehicle Weight limit but allows for a 10% axle variance for “dry bulk.” This language passed the committee in the past two Congresses. Dry bulk is defined as “homogenous unmarked nonliquid cargo being transported in a trailer specifically designed for that purpose.” When dry bulk loads shift, they may not easily redistribute across axles. The natural motion of the truck causes the load to be improperly distributed. The bill ensures trucks don’t have to unnecessarily reduce their loads.

“Commodities such as flour or rice have the tendency to shift when the driver comes to a stop, even when packaged properly,” said Rep. Crawford. “Current law doesn’t take into account that this movement is inevitable. This legislation is a commonsense solution for truckers transporting dry bulk by giving more flexibility for weight per axle requirements.”

  • Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Integrity Act, sponsored by Rep. Crawford. 

The bill supports 18- to 20-year-old Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers and the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act’s three-year pilot program. The bill increases FMCSA reporting requirements for the pilot program to ensure greater transparency as the program is implemented. Barring sufficient data, the bill says the Department of Transportation shall move forward with regulations to allow 18 to 20-year-old CMV drivers to operate across state lines one year after the pilot program ends. 

  • 91,000- lb. Weight Exemption Pilot Program, sponsored by Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D. 

The bill establishes a voluntary 10-year pilot program for states to increase truck weights on federal interstates up to 91,000 pounds on six axles. The program must comply with the Federal Bridge Formula and does not include Longer Combination Vehicles, such as doubles or triples. 

“Increasing the amount of cargo a truck can carry on the road with the addition of a sixth axle is a safe and efficient way to further streamline our supply chain,” said Rep. Johnson. “This commonsense update to the rules of the road lowers greenhouse gas emissions, mitigates factors leading to supply chain backlogs, reduces damage to roads, and provides an extra set of breaks to increase stopping capacity and safety. The demand is there to carry more goods, it’s time to modernize.” 

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