Down the Road, the 117th Congress and Transportation

Scott Marks | Government Affairs Manager | TIA

The 2nd session of the 116th Congress has been a whirlwind, packed with a marathon markup of a $2 trillion infrastructure package, COVID-19 response packages, and a lot of pettifogging by both sides of the aisle. Coming up in a couple of weeks will be Infrastructure Week. This is a dedicated week focused on the shared transportation priorities between the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Federal Government to fix America’s crumbling roads, bridges, and other infrastructure needs.

This Infrastructure Week feels a lot like the past ones as once again, the United States Congress has yet to send to the President’s desk a new sweeping, comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization. Instead, it will most likely pass a continuing resolution which means carrying over the spending levels from the previous authorizing legislation. Our United States freight system is about four million miles of highways and roads; 140,000 miles of rail lines; 25,000 miles of inland and coastal waterways; 2.8 million miles of pipelines; and more than 5,000 public airports. We must pass into law a piece of legislation that is just as powerful as the system it looks to overhaul.

Next Congress needs to feel the urgency to pass a sweeping, up-to-date, surface transportation bill that takes into consideration all aspects of the supply chain, shippers, brokers, and carriers. The bill needs to be expansive, while at the same time, empowering states to fix their non-federal highways. Studies are conclusive and substantive on the issue of dollars lost because of the crumbling infrastructure, and as the Department of Transportation’s newly released National Freight Strategic Plan states, the issue will continue to worsen: 

“Freight shipments are expected to increase by 22.4 percent over the next 20 years. Investments in infrastructure capacity and operational improvements will be required to meet rising demand for freight. Yet, freight system performance can be hindered by regulatory, financial, and institutional barriers that raise the economic costs of freight movements.”

Our message to Congress: you must empower states with grants, fund federal programs to expedite construction while at the same, making regulatory changes, we know that pumping money into a problem does fix the underlying issue. Lay out a roadmap for brokers and 3PL’s to certify what a safe carrier is (this is especially crucial as trucks move 72% of Americas Freight), throw out the current audit safety rating system, overall the process to include data from states (that is fair to motor carriers and determines fault for crashes), and continue to allow the transportation industry to be fair, open and competitive without bogging it down with burdensome transparency regulations.

There is a lot to be done for the rest of the Congress and in the 117th Congress, TIA Government Affairs looks forward to working closely with our members, Members of Congress and their staff, the Department of Transportation, and other key players in the Executive Branch and private sector key stakeholders.

If you have any questions, concerns, or want to learn more about TIA’s Advocacy efforts, please contact TIA Government Affairs at [email protected].

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