Latest FHWA ‘Buy America’ Waiver Clears Federal Funds to Buy Hundreds of Vehicles

AASHTO News, 23 December 2015

The Federal Highway Administration finalized a waiver this month from “Buy America” provisions in federal law, in order to let states and cities tap federal-aid funds in 74 project requests to purchase about 550 vehicles used in roadway, transit and trail projects.

The waiver from the requirement that federal dollars be used to buy equipment made of domestically produced steel is the latest in a series of such actions by the agency, but it highlights the processes that the FHWA and state departments of transportation or other agencies face in order to use money from federal programs.

The FHWA said it concluded that “there are no domestic manufacturers that produce the vehicles and vehicle components identified in this notice in such a way that their steel and iron elements are manufactured domestically.”

The notice added: “In today’s global industry, vehicles are assembled with iron and steel components that are manufactured all over the world. The FHWA is not aware of any domestically produced vehicle on the market” that meets the requirement have all its iron and steel manufactured exclusively in this country.

But the FHWA stipulated, as in past such equipment project waivers, that the vehicles be assembled in the United States to qualify for federal funding to aid their purchase. “Thus, so long as the final assembly of the 74 state projects occurs in the U.S., applicants to this waiver request may proceed to purchase these vehicles and equipment consistent with the Buy America requirement.”

The agency put the waiver announcement in the Dec. 3 Federal Register, and the waiver took effect the next day. The FHWA had served notice Oct. 6 of its plan to issue this waiver and invited public comment, but said no comments came in.

This particular waiver cleared funds to buy bridge inspection trucks, street sweepers, trail grooming units, trucks, buses, vans and cars. It includes diesel emission reduction retrofits to construction equipment used on publicly funded projects.

The FHWA said: “These projects are being undertaken to implement air quality improvement, safety and mobility goals under FHWA’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, National Bridge and Tunnel Inventory and Inspection Program, and the Recreational Trails Program.”

Here is the full list of equipment requests covered by the waiver.

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