The House of Representatives passed their highway bill by a 363-64 vote, which means that the bill will now move to a House-Senate conference to resolve differences between the two bills. The U.S. Senate had previously passed a bill that would reauthorize the federal highway program for six years, but that only had three years of funding.
One amendment that was adopted as part of the highway bill seeks to clarify the intent of Congress and ensure the motor-carrier industry can operate under one standard when engaging in interstate commerce in accordance with the nationally uniform regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The amendment will pre-empt a patchwork of up to 50 different state meal and rest break laws to provide certainty for regional and national carriers doing business. This amendment does not impede on the rights of drivers to take meal and rest breaks. It simply ensures that drivers have the flexibility to take meal and rest breaks as they see fit and as required by federal regulations, not at arbitrarily pre-determined times set by 50 different states.
Forcing drivers to exit the road or pull over in unsafe conditions ultimately harms their earning potential and presents an enormous safety risk for other drivers sharing the road. Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th district) broke with party lines and voted to support the amendment, which benefits business and interstate commerce.
The House rejected a different amendment aimed at allowing states to increase weight limits for trucks. By a vote of 187 to 236, the amendment that would have allowed states to authorize weight limits for trucks to increase to 91,000 pounds, was defeated.