New year, new chairman

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D – Or.), the new U.S. House Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, recently began his tenure with two specific goals in mind: launching investigations into the Trump administration and finding long-term solutions for the nation’s infrastructure package. 

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So what does this mean for the trucking industry?

DeFazio has pledged to continue to prioritize freight-related issues. Over the next two years, the new chairman said he plans to focus on improving connectivity along key freight corridors and conducting oversight of major trucking policy issues.

When it comes to these areas of focus, DeFazio and the committee definitely have their work cut out. Congestion inhibits the efficient movement of freight across the nation. In fact, the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2016 study over highway congestion revealed this issue cost the trucking industry $74.5 billion.

According to DeFazio, key trucking topics at the U.S. Department of Transportation that will warrant additional attention from the Committee include the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations, the Compliance, Safety, Accountability methods of rating trucking companies’ safety performance and pressing concerns about detention time for commercial drivers. 

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Not seeing eye to eye on infrastructure

Taking over for former chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R – Pa.), the new chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee doesn’t quite see eye to eye with President Trump when it comes to relying largely on the private sector to remedy the nation’s roads and bridges. 

In fact, he’s saying he won’t allow it.

On Jan. 4, DeFazio restated his vision for his new position as chairman, saying that although the president promised $1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure investment, “so far he has proposed actually cutting infrastructure or privatizing the entire system. That won’t work.”

While Trump looks mostly to the private sector to fund the facelift of the nation’s infrastructure, DeFazio has different ideas. He would prefer for the president and Republican colleagues to propose plans anchored on federal sources of revenue and has suggested hiking fuel taxes to bolster funding for infrastructure projects.

 We need significant, real proposals that’ll move us toward a more efficient, 21st century transportation network in all modes: in rail, in maritime, and, obviously, in freight movement and people movement on the highways and transit to get people out of their cars and give them new options.
— Peter DeFazio (D - Or.)

 Here’s what DeFazio wants to accomplish with his infrastructure package:

·     Kick off a federal pilot on a vehicle miles traveled fee

·     Enhance transit projects to alleviate highway congestion

·     Promote long-lasting infrastructure responsive to climate change

·     Guarantee continual, federal funding for large-scale infrastructure undertaking

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The new chairman has been a Ranking Member of the Committee since January 2015 and has been a member of the Committee since he was elected in 1986, serving as Chairman or Ranking Member of four of the six subcommittees: Aviation, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Highways and Transit, and Water Resources and Environment.

“I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues in order to achieve our shared goals,” DeFazio said in a recent press release. “Together, we can lay the groundwork for infrastructure investment that delivers for generations to come.”