A manager’s amendment that “makes technical and noncontroversial changes to the bill and report” was adopted by voice vote, but two additional amendments were struck down by recorded vote.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., supported the amendment and argued the first provision would create a “patchwork system” and cause a “disruption to the supply chain” as each state would be free to set its own hours of service requirements. He said the data required to publish trucking safety violations has been determined to be flawed by the Government Accountability Office and the National Academy of Sciences.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said, “Imagine if you are coming and have one patchwork in one state, another patchwork in another state, another patchwork in another state. What’s going to happen to the efficiency of that supply chain? ... What we’re asking is to make sure we don’t undermine the efficient transportation of U.S. commerce and goods along our interstate highways.”
Price responded by saying a state-by-state approach has been used because “trucking interests have been unsuccessful lobbying Congress for a broad nationwide prohibition on meal and rest breaks.” He said the data collected by the Transportation Department as part of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program has been “determined to be sound” in a study completed by the Nation Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
“We have an obligation to share that crucial safety data with the general public,” Price said. “Without public data, there are insufficient incentives for unsafe carriers to improve their operations.”
The committee also voted by a 29-21 recorded vote to not adopt an amendment that would have allowed funds to be pulled back from the California high-speed rail project. Rep. Michael Simpson, R- Idaho, said the removal of the provision would allow the Transportation Department to reallocate $929 million to merit-worthy rail projects across the nation.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., argued in favor of the amendment, saying, “The concept of limiting the ability of our agencies to pull back funds from projects that have failed to deliver on their grant agreements, that’s what we’re dealing with here.”
Price said diverting money from the California high-speed rail project is not the way to invest in other passenger rail projects. He said the Federal Railroad Administration has been slow to award money to eligible projects and has sat on more than $1.3 billion for the past three fiscal years.
“FRA’s programs are under high demand, for sure, but it doesn’t seem to be able to manage to award $1.3 billion, so how can we expect that they would handle $2.2 billion?” Price asked.
Diaz-Balart, the T-HUD subcommittee ranking member, said, “This is a good bill, but unfortunately the numbers that it’s built on are artificial numbers.”
He added, “Again, I’m confident that this bill, which is so critical to our economy and our communities, can move forward quickly with bipartisan support once that top-line number deal is struck.”