The U.S. Senate on Aug. 10 voted 69-30 to pass a historic, $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that did not include any provisions which would upend the longstanding federal law prohibiting commercial activity, including electric vehicle (EV) charging, at Interstate rest areas.
NATSO offers a sincere thank you to all of its members who actively engaged on this issue and contacted their lawmakers as the Senate language was considered and urged them to oppose any efforts that would detract from the industry's ability to make forward-looking investments at a time when the transportation energy market is changing.
Ensuring that truckstops, travel plazas and off-highway fuel retailers can invest in a full range of fueling options for consumers, including electricity, in a competitive and robust marketplace is a top priority agenda item for NATSO.
The active engagement of NATSO’s membership was critical to this success and enabled the industry to keep harmful provisions out of the final bill.
NATSO quickly praised the Senate for passing the bipartisan bill, saying in a statement to media that the measure marks a critical step toward ensuring a long-term plan for the nation’s highway and infrastructure programs while laying the groundwork for the retail fuels industry to invest in the future of transportation energy including electric vehicle charging and other emerging technologies.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) now must be considered by the House. Some House Democrats have complained that they were left out of the negotiation process between the White House and the Senate and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has publicly indicated she will not allow the House to consider the infrastructure bill until it advances Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation legislation that will consider broader social and climate priorities.
At a high level, the Senate’s 2,700-page IIJA adds $550 billion in new spending over five years on top of current FAST Act funding levels. The bill would be paid for by various Congressional financing mechanisms, including using more than $200 billion in leftover coronavirus relief funding.
The bill includes approximately $110 billion in new spending for roads and bridges, $73 billion for power grid upgrades, $66 billion for rail and Amtrak, and $65 billion for broadband expansion. It also provides $39 billion for transit and includes $7.5 billion for investments in EV charging.
The Senate bill aids the development of a competitive market for alternative fuels, including EV infrastructure, by:
- Taking a technology neutral approach to alternative fuels so that there is competition among those technologies on price and reliability;
- Prioritizing private investment so that consumers pay competitive prices rather than socializing costs among all consumers – even those who don’t have or can’t afford electric and alternative fuel vehicles;
- Requiring state public utility commissions to use their positions to find ways to attract private investment to electric vehicle charging, which should lead them to reduce anticompetitive and punitive demand charges.
Specifically, Section 11401 provides grants for alternative fueling infrastructure, including EV charging infrastructure, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors. The bill requires grant recipients to show collaborative engagement with stakeholders, including fuel providers and fuel station owners and operators, among others. Applications must “foster enhanced, coordinated public-private or private investment” in alternative fueling infrastructure. (NATSO has long urged lawmakers to ensure that grant recipients, which will generally be state and local governments, are obligated to contract with a private entity to implement the grant, rather than the government owning and operating the refueling infrastructure.)
Notably, locations for alternative fueling also must take into account the availability of onsite availability of amenities such as restrooms and food offerings.
NATSO has encouraged Congress to prioritize grant applications where private money is being placed at risk over applications where the applicant will be operating in a guaranteed rate of return environment. Currently, a number of states throughout the country allow public utility companies to utilize ratepayer dollars to underwrite the electric vehicle charging business and invest in electric vehicle charging stations. Many fuel retailers that may otherwise explore investing in EV charging infrastructure do not because they cannot compete with the utilities that are not forced to put capital at risk.
The Senate IIJA does not lift the federal prohibitions on tolling existing interstates. The measure directs the Secretary to establish a congestion relief program to provide discretionary grants to advance innovative, integrated, and multimodal solutions to congestion relief in the most congested metropolitan areas of the United States.
Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax Pilot Program:
The IIJA requires the Secretary of Transportation in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a pilot program to test the design, implementation and financial sustainability of a national motor vehicle per mile user fee to “restore and maintain” the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
Notably, the Senate IIJA includes an apprenticeship pilot program that would allow individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate a commercial motor vehicle across state lines if they complete the training requirements. NATSO has supported efforts to create an apprenticeship program such as the one included in the IIJA to relieve the commercial driver shortage.
The Senate IIJA does not increase motor carriers’ $750,000 liability insurance minimum. The House INVEST in America Act sought to increase liability insurance minimums to $2 million.
The bill also does not contain funds for trucking parking. The House INVEST in America Act, by comparison, set aside $250 million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2023 through 2026 for states, public agencies and local governments to construct commercial parking on the Federal Highway System.
The Senate IIJA makes it easier for states to use motor carrier safety assistance program funds to help with the recognition, prevention, and reporting of human trafficking, including in a commercial motor vehicle; or by any occupant, including the operator, of a commercial motor vehicle.
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