WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for approving its version of the six-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 on Oct. 22 by a voice vote.
“Multi-year surface transportation legislation providing adequate funding and greater certainty for transportation infrastructure projects is critical to all sectors of U.S. agriculture and their ability to be a competitive supplier in serving domestic and international markets, as well as to the economic well-being of the entire country,” said NGFA President Randy Gordon. “We urge the House to take up floor action on the bill at the earliest opportunity, and for Congress to come to agreement on a final version as soon as possible.”
The NGFA said it is particularly pleased that the legislation includes an extension of the deadline for Class I rail carriers to implement positive train control (PTC) technology on all rail lines that handle at least 5 million gross tonnes of traffic annually, and also are used to transport either passenger traffic or toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) cargo.
The NGFA has said that failure to extend the current Dec. 31 deadline in a responsible way could result in severe service disruptions and delays for a broad range of agricultural products, not just hazardous cargo. Class I rail carriers have reported major challenges in installing and implementing this new technology – some of which are the result of delays in receiving approval of safety plans from government regulators and in obtaining radio spectrum and Federal Communications Commission permits for the required communications infrastructure.
While the bill passed out of committee is a necessary and welcome step for the nation’s transportation system, the NGFA is looking forward to potential amendments to the bill once it reaches the House floor that will address additional pressing issues important to the agriculture industry.
For instance, NGFA supports the Safe, Flexible, and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act, sponsored by Rep. Reid Ribble that will allow trucks with six axles to transport up to 91,000 pounds on Interstate highways. The federal weight limit for Interstate highways has been set at 80,000 pounds since 1982.
“Federal highway truck weight limits currently are lower than most state road weight limits, and this inconsistency presents obstacles to efficient movement of U.S. grains,” said NGFA Director of Economics and Government Relations Max Fisher. “This bill will improve this situation, taking better advantage of our Interstate highway system infrastructure while still protecting highway safety.”
The NGFA joined several other agricultural organizations in sending a letter to House committee members prior to today’s markup outlining several transportation provisions that still need to be addressed. These include decreasing the commercial driver’s license age for interstate transit through a proposed pilot program and collecting data on key port performance metrics. To read the letter with more information about the NGFA’s surface transportation priorities, click here.