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June 21, 2018 7:45 PM, EDT

Editorial: Hot Topics for Summer’s Swelter

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would provide relief for truckers from some hours-of-service rules. With it, both houses of Congress are now circulating legislation that targets change to HOS regulations, adding to a flurry of trucking-related activity taking place on Capitol Hill as lawmakers stare down the steamy days of D.C. summer.

The Honest Operators Undertaking Road Safety Act — or HOURS Act — was introduced with bipartisan backing from a trio of congressmen. It would provide permanent, specific exemptions for drivers hauling livestock or agricultural products; simplify HOS rules for shorthaul drivers; reduce requirements for supporting documents truck drivers must maintain; and speed up ongoing work at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to improve flexibility in how drivers split rest time during off-duty periods in sleeper berths. It follows a Senate bill that also aims to ease certain HOS restrictions, including changes for livestock and agricultural haulers.

It’s good to see lawmakers focused on red-hot trucking issues. And these aren’t the only ones commanding their attention.

The Senate Finance Committee on June 20 challenged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the Trump administration’s use of national security grounds for escalating a battle with other nations over tariffs on imported goods — one senator described the efforts as “economic nationalism.”

Arguably, the Trump administration’s moves to impose tariffs on some of the country’s top trading partners is an extension of its efforts to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement. The president wants to be sure the United States is getting a fair shake. Fair enough. But taking any of these efforts to the point where the free flow of goods into, out of and across the country is hindered poses a threat to our economy — and to trucking. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail on all counts.

It’s also advisable to keep a cool head as we wait for movement on an infrastructure bill. Lawmakers have said not to expect anything until next year, and all indications are that will be the case. But that hasn’t stopped people from discussing how to pay for needed repairs on the nation’s roads.

At a forum on mileage-based user fees, Democratic congressman Earl Blumenauer said government is not paying enough attention to transportation finance and promised to increase congressional efforts on the subject should his party regain control of the House in the midterm elections.

We have a few months before we’ll know if that comes to pass. Meantime, let’s hope lawmakers’ attention to important trucking industry issues remains as hot as the D.C. summer.