On March 14, the Senate passed a two-year mass transit bill that intends to improve safety in the trucking industry while also increasing funding for several transportation projects. The $109 billion bill is called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21. The Senate voted for it 74-22, and it has support on both sides of the political divide, since it was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. It has also garnered the support of American Trucking Associations.
One of the main points of the bill is to increase safety on the road. Among the most affected industries involves vehicles that travel long distances, including tour buses. According to Fox News, some of the proposed changes to buses include the following:
• They will need to have seat belts
• The roofs will be strengthened
• Anti-ejection window glazing will be added
• Systems that seek to avoid rollover crashes will also be added
The trucking industry, of course, will be affected, too. According to TruckingInfo.com, the bill is supposed to do the following:
• Require electronic onboard recorders in trucks
• Develop an agency that records alcohol and drug test results from commercial drivers
• Mandate a written exam for new drivers
Other Effects of MAP-21
This bill focuses on more than just safety. It also seeks to cut the amount of federal transportation programs by 2/3 to make them easier to keep track of and reduce confusion. In addition, it is supposed to get rid of earmarks and try to improve the process of freight distribution. According to American Trucking Associations, the bill will also speed up approval of transportation projects.
Much of the money to pay for this bill would come from reductions to other government programs, in addition to the revenue made from fuel taxes. However, the federal Highway Trust Fund would also need to be used to pay for the bill, and advocates have yet to figure out how to keep the fund from being used up within the next couple of years. The idea of adding tolls to certain interstate highways was considered by some, but ultimately rejected.
A main issue with the bill is that the revenue from federal fuel taxes has decreased due to the increased fuel efficiency of many vehicles in the last few years. While that may be great news for the public, it means there is less money to pay for MAP-21.
Thus, the details are not yet completely figured out for this bill, as the House is still struggling to determine which financial resources to use for funding.