The Teamsters labor union and the fleet owners’ trade group American Trucking Associations (ATA) rarely agree on matters of freight and transportation policy, but their interests aligned this week when they both praised Congress’ vote to pass the $715 billion “INVEST in America Act.”
The infrastructure bill, known formally as H.R.3684, won passage Thursday in the House of Representatives and now awaits Senate action on a comparable bill. The legislation is a transportation reauthorization and water infrastructure bill that invests in: roads, bridges, and safety ($343 billion); transit ($109 billion); passenger and freight rail ($95 billion); drinking water infrastructure & assistance ($117 billion); and wastewater infrastructure ($51.25 billion).
In a statement, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear encouraged the Senate to advance companion legislation this summer and pledged to support those investments. “By passing the INVEST in America Act, the House has taken a significant step toward enacting the kind of comprehensive infrastructure package our nation needs. The investments in this bill will enable the country to grow, not just economically, but they will improve safety and the environment,” Spear said in a release.
Among other improvements, the bill would focus on the estimated 47,000 bridges in the national highway system that are in need of substantial repair or replacement, according to a statement by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“We can lead again, like we did in the 60s, and the 70s, when our infrastructure was the envy of the world. We were number one, we're now number 13. And falling fast,” DeFazio said in a press conference. “We're investing one half of 1% of our GDP in infrastructure, China is investing six [and] other competitor nations are investing between three and four. We cannot afford to be absent from this debate anymore. States are trying to do it on their own. They can't do it on their own. This is a federal system. It's a federal problem. Its international competitiveness, it’s jobs, it’s manufacturing.”
The Teamsters also applauded the bill, although that group cited different benefits, saying the INVEST in America Act would reform the trucking sector by requiring all motor carriers to certify that they comply with all labor and safety laws prior to renewing or acquiring their registration with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
"The motor carrier accountability provision is a huge step forward in holding trucking and delivery companies, including Amazon's growing fleet, accountable for keeping workers safe," Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said in a release. "Under this new legislation, Amazon, its Delivery Service Partners, and other trucking companies across the country, would be responsible for any labor law and workplace safety violations when they apply for their DOT registration."
According to the Teamsters, that provision also requires the DOT to formally study the correlation between compensation and safety in all trucking and delivery operations nationwide. "This is not only a victory for Teamsters, but for all drivers in the trucking and delivery industries. Our roads and communities will be safer thanks to this legislation,” Hoffa said.
Despite that support from different quarters of the transportation industry, the bill also has its detractors.
Trade groups representing fuel retailers and truckstops said they oppose the act for provisions they say undermine new investment in electric vehicle charging, according to a joint statement from NATSO, representing the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas, NACS, the National Association of Convenience Stores, and SIGMA: America’s Leading Fuel Marketers.
The groups said they all support increased investment in infrastructure, including alternatives to traditional motor fuel such as electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, and natural gas fueling. But they said the INVEST Act falls short in incentivizing private investment in those and other alternatives.
“NATSO is disappointed that we must reject a federal highway bill for the second time because it contains the same harmful provisions that will discourage the private sector from making investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure,” NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said in a release. “NATSO wants to work with lawmakers to expand the market’s transition to alternative fuels, including EV charging. With a few key improvements to these provisions, NATSO and the entire retail fuel industry would otherwise be able to support this important legislation.”