5 things you need to know about the new Fast Act highway bill

Posted by Harriet Mills on Feb 12, 2016 11:46:09 AM

Think of your favorite action movie. The clock is counting down on the doomsday device, the hero is trying desperately to save his partner from impending doom, and all the while the villain is laughing manically. The tick-tock of that clock has you on the edge of your seat, gripped in tension — and you're only watching the movie. As for those of us in the transportation industry, we feel like we lived it at the end of 2015.

Last December was a stressful time indeed because the end of the year also meant the end of the existing federal transportation funding package. Fortunately, just like the counting down of the doomsday clock, which always seems to miraculously stop at one, new legislation was signed into place just hours before the deadline — and once again the day was saved. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is here for 2016, and there are plenty of pieces to this bill. Today we're going to take a closer look at some of the highlights of the FAST Act, and in the spirit of your favorite action movie, we’ll count these down.

5. It’s big. This is the first funding bill for transportation surfaces in more than 10 years, and Congress has allotted some serious money for the issue. The bill calls for $305 billion to be spent on improving the nation’s highways over the next five years. That’s great news for a shipping fleet that relies on these roads to do its job safely.

4. It targets CSA. Reform of the existing Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scoring system is a big piece of the FAST Act. Under the act, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will overhaul its existing program for scoring and ranking carriers. This includes the removal of public percentile rankings until existing problems with the program have been corrected.

3. Addressing the need for more drivers. The driver shortage has been felt all across our industry and the new FAST Act aims to help solve this problem by increasing the travel opportunities for young drivers (ages 18-21) and making it easier for veterans to obtain a truck driver’s license.

2. Comprehensive drug testing. High-quality roads will be of little benefit if the driver behind the wheel is compromised. The FAST Act aims to improve drug testing by incorporating hair-follicle testing, which is more accurate than conventional urinary testing. Hair-follicle testing can even detect drug use within a 90-day span instead of one week like a urine test, encouraging all drivers to stay safe and sober.

1. More than just the roads. The FAST Act also includes financial resources for rail concerns, specifically hazmat issues. Rail cars transporting oil will now be required to employ thicker thermal blankets to provide the necessary protection in the event of a spill. That’s good for the industry and the environment.

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