On Monday, November 15, President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package into law. The measure is expected to create jobs across the country and will deliver $550 billion of federal investments in America’s infrastructure over the next five years. This funding will be used for roads, bridges, mass transit, rail, airports, shipping ports, and waterways. The package also includes a $65 billion investment for improving the country’s broadband infrastructure, tens of billions of dollars for modernizing the electrical grid and water systems, and $7.5 billion for building a nationwide network of plug-in electric vehicle chargers.
The bipartisan DRIVE-Safe Act was also included in the bill, which will help to eliminate one of the primary obstacles in bringing younger drivers into the transportation industry. This act establishes an apprenticeship program that will allow for the legal operation of a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce by CDL holders under the age of 21. This will be a huge boon for the industry amid the ongoing driver shortage. The American Trucking Associations (ATA), along with Ruan and other industry advocates, has been fighting to pass this legislation for years now.
“Now more than ever, we all understand how critical the trucking industry is to our daily lives—but the driver shortage remains a threat in our ability to deliver essential products and services,” said Ruan President Dan Van Alstine, who serves as First Vice Chairman of the ATA. “The DRIVE-Safe Act addresses our industry’s largest challenge by creating an apprenticeship program that will help train the next generation of safe, skilled drivers. The training involves rigorous standards on safety and includes significant investment on the part of the carrier in the latest safety technologies. Many young drivers already hold CDLs and drive intrastate, but we’ll now have avenues to expand their training and hopefully see them driving across state lines as well.”
Biden has named former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to supervise the implementation of this infrastructure effort as a senior adviser. In addition to the new bill, Biden also signed an executive order directing that materials made in the United States be given priority in all infrastructure projects. Combined, these efforts are expected to go far in helping to boost the nation’s economy.
The funding from this new bill is expected to create millions of new jobs in cities across the country, boosting America’s economic competitiveness in the world and strengthening supply chains. The U.S. has needed a solid investment in its infrastructure for a long time, with crumbling roadways being at the top of list. Poorly maintained roads and bridges increase wear and tear on vehicles, cause delays, waste fuel, add to driver stress, and negatively impact productivity for the industry as a whole. This new measure is expected to have a big impact on the trucking industry, which hauls 72.5 percent of the nation’s freight.
All year, infrastructure has been a hot-button topic—with Democrats and Republicans struggling to find middle ground. The bill was first passed by the Senate back in August, but its fate was unknown as it went to the House. On November 5, it came to a vote and 13 Republicans broke ranks to support the measure, which has now become a bipartisan achievement.
“Roads and bridges are not political—we all drive on them. From farmers to truckers, the millions of hard-working people who make this country great won today. Those lawmakers who put their constituents before themselves have now cemented a lasting legacy that the American people will see, feel, and use for many decades to come,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear when the bill passed.
Everyone in the nation can benefit from more jobs, safer roads and bridges, cleaner water, faster internet, greener energy, and an improved environment overall. As our nation continues to right itself during the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the perfect time to create new jobs, fund crucial efforts, and build back stronger than ever.