At long last, America has long-term highway funding again—that is, money for everything from fixing and rebuilding roads and bridges, to public transportation, to safety. For years, the industry has been subsisting on short-term funding extensions, in part because of political issues relating to the gas tax. This past December, Congress finally resolved the impasse and passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which will provide funding for the next five years.
The FAST Act increases the total funding for transportation without increasing the gas tax by trimming the budgets of other Federal programs. The new law also streamlines, clarifies, or re-focuses existing transportation-related programs. Highlights include more funding for bridges, public buses, and safety programs and actions to encourage both private investment and the use of new technology.
Administrators of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) are understandably pleased with the Act overall. They do criticize some features. For example, while the FAST Act opens interstate commercial driving to young military veterans, other young drivers (those under 21 years old) are still barred from routes that cross state lines. The Act also does nothing to relieve confusion between Federal regulations and those states that have their own, different transportation regulations. But ATA still finds more to praise than to criticize in the new law.
The FAST Act reforms the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA program and opens the possibility of expanded drug testing. It earmarks funds for highway freight projects and does make it easier for young veterans to get into commercial driving. All of that is good news, in the view of the ATA.
The FAST Act is most notable for simply providing a much-needed stable source of funding, but the law does focus specifically on safety and favors new technology as a means of improving vehicle safety and reducing congestion. Of course, it doesn’t take a new law for individual carriers to adopt the latest technology to help their drivers stay compliant with regulations. GPS fleet management software with a Safety Analytics feature allow fleet managers to not only see where their vehicles are and what they’re doing, but also which drivers consistently perform according to the company’s safety standards. The system records incidents of unsafe driving behavior, such as speeding or running stop-signs, giving fleet managers the opportunity to reward high-performing drivers, or retrain and discipline drivers who violate safety policies. This way, businesses can monitor safety metrics across their entire fleet.
Is your fleet ready to adopt the FAST Act’s proposals and invest in vehicle safety technology?