House passes highway bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the highway reauthorization bill, which includes several important amendments for shippers but no real clarity on the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations.

The House bill includes a requirement for Canadian and Mexican commercial drivers to undergo background checks before being permitted to transport hazardous materials. These provisions would be similar to those required for U.S. operators who haul hazmat.

Also, motor carriers, brokers and forwarders would be required to assess a fuel surcharge when regional prices of diesel fuel rise above a benchmark price established by the U.S. Department of Energy.

One toll provision was rejected from the bill. An amendment proposed by Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) would have allowed states to impose tolls on interstate highways for newly built or expanded stretches of road to recover construction costs.

An amendment from Rep. John Boozman (R-AK) that would have added two hours of off-duty time to a driver's 14 hours on duty was withdrawn with unanimous consent, in the wake of negative reactions from public safety groups and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The only clear statement on HOS in the bill was the providing of some relief to the agricultural industry.

Debate in the U.S. Senate is expected to begin in late April.

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