NTEA Managing Director
This article was published in the January 2022 edition of NTEA News.
After months of debate, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law by President Biden in November. The more than 1,000-page law (PL 117-58), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, includes $1.2 trillion of new investments and reauthorizations for federal infrastructure investment over a 10-year period.
The new law calls for some $550 billion of new spending on roads, bridges, rail, public transit, water, energy and climate change projects over the next five years. According to Congressional Budget Office, IIJA will add $256 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years.
Broadly, the law allocates new spending of $343 billion for roads and bridges, $109 billion for transit and $95 billion for rail. Traditionally, these funds are provided to individual states based on a funding formula, and states can make decisions, within certain guidelines, concerning how funds are spent. In this law, $120 billion of the $550 billion will be allocated to competitive grants awarded by the federal government that may involve multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional projects.
Department of Transportation released a summary of how the new law will distribute funds to each of the states — recognizing that individual states have leeway in how some of the funds are allocated. To learn more, view the press release, USDOT Releases State by State Fact Sheets Highlighting Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, at transportation.gov/newsroom.
Highway funding and FET
This law, which is primarily a funding bill, addresses some revenue issues. As we have reported in the past, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is inadequately funded. Given the focus on promoting alternatively fueled motor vehicles that would use less or no gas and diesel (taxes on which are HTF’s primary revenue source), long-term funding must be addressed.
Of interest to many NTEA members is the future of the Federal Excise Tax (FET), a 12% tax on new heavy trucks and trailers. The Association continues to educate members of Congress on inadequacies of the current funding format and specific problems with FET, which contributes to HTF.
The new law will create a voluntary pilot program for a per-mile user fee that could replace or supplement current fuel taxes. Such a user fee would potentially create a funding mechanism that could facilitate FET repeal.
The voluntary pilot program calls for establishment of per-mile user fees for passenger motor vehicles, light trucks, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Fees may vary between vehicle types and weight classes to reflect estimated impacts on infrastructure, safety, congestion, the environment, or other related social impacts.
Alternative fuels and electric vehicles (EVs)
EVs have received a good deal of attention in this law. There is $7.5 billion set aside for a network of electric charging stations and another $7.5 billion for zero- and low-emission buses and ferries. The legislation adds $73 billion to expand the power grid in recognition of a future with a significant EV population. The law also authorizes funding for research and development programs for hydrogen from clean sources.
The bill requires that all construction materials (including iron and steel) used in infrastructure projects funded through the new law must be produced in the United States. The law says such requirements must be consistent with existing treaties, such as United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Other transportation-related Buy American requirements remain unaffected.
Truck-related safety provisions
It’s not uncommon for other provisions to be added to major spending legislation. This law has sections addressing pedestrian and cycling safety, climate change, equity and motor vehicle safety regulations.
The law requires the Department of Transportation to conduct rulemaking and promulgate a regulation requiring automatic emergency braking systems for commercial motor vehicles (defined as having a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds). Automatic emergency braking system means a system on a commercial motor vehicle that, based on a predefined distance and closing rate, alerts the driver of the obstacle; and if necessary to avoid or mitigate a collision with the obstacle, automatically applies the commercial motor vehicle’s brakes.
Rear underride for trailers
One section in the new law addresses rear underride devices for trailers. Currently, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has safety standards that specify performance requirements for rear underride devices that must be installed on trailers. Single-unit work trucks are subject to separate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) underride requirements.
NTEA has worked to educate NHTSA, FMCSA, the U.S. General Accountability Office and Congress about the safety profile differences between tractor-trailers and work trucks. Congress specified the new law will require NHTSA to update the rear underride devices in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 223 and 224 for semitrailers and trailers. Rear impact guards would need to be designed to prevent passenger compartment intrusion from a trailer or semitrailer when a passenger motor vehicle traveling at 35 miles per hour (MPH) impacts the device. There is no change in the law for rear underride requirements for single-unit work trucks. The law calls for additional research on the possibility of rear guards that could withstand a 65 MPH impact as well as possible side underride guards for trailers and semitrailers.
Lastly, the law will require that rear underride devices be added to the periodic safety inspection list for commercial motor vehicles.
NTEA will continue to monitor the progress of funding distribution and development of regulations required by this law, and advocate on behalf of the industry as necessary.
Visit ntea.com/advocacy for more legislative and regulatory resources.