Major Step Taken to Boost Domestic Manufacturing in Transportation

April 2024

WASHINGTON, DC… The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) today to discontinue its general waiver of Buy America requirements for manufactured products used in federal-aid highway projects. In the rulemaking, the agency proposes discontinuing the waiver and creating standards that would apply to manufactured products if the waiver is discontinued. This rulemaking will change outdated policy and bolster American manufacturing while creating good-paying jobs. This proposed rule is a result of the FHWA’s review of the general waiver for manufactured products under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Build America, Buy America (BABA) Act, which will boost domestic manufacturing, bolster critical supply chains, and support the creation of good-paying union jobs.

The Buy America Requirements for Manufactured Products NPRM calls for the elimination of the previous Manufactured Products General Waiver, a general applicability waiver in existence for more than four decades that waived the Buy America requirement for manufactured products. The proposed rule aims to maximize the use of domestically produced manufactured products permanently incorporated in federal-aid highway and bridge projects and asks for comment to outline standards for manufactured products covered under Buy America requirements. The proposed rule is consistent with existing BABA standards for manufactured products implemented by the Office of Management and Budget.

 Buy America was enacted in 1983. At that time manufactured products were used in insufficient quantity on highway construction projects to incentivize domestic manufacturing, so there would be little benefit to applying the protections afforded under Buy America.

 The proposed rule responds to President Biden’s Executive Order, “Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers.” The Executive Order sets forth a policy that federal agencies should maximize the use of domestic products and strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector – while seeking to promote private sector investment and opportunity for small businesses, bolster the domestic supply chains, and create jobs. 

 BABA represents a unique governmentwide market opportunity to expand the domestic manufacturing base. By placing greater value on domestic manufacturing for highway construction, the proposed rule is expected to encourage investment in this sector. It seeks to protect and expand domestic manufacturing, as required under BABA, to increase reliance on U.S.-made products and strengthen the resiliency of our nation’s supply chain.

 The proposed rule will not change the Buy America requirements that currently apply to iron or steel products. Nor will the proposed rule change BABA requirements that apply to products classified as construction materials or excluded materials (cement and cementitious materials; aggregates such as stone, sand, or gravel; or aggregate binding agents or additives).

 FHWA will also issue a Request for Information (RFI) on the domestic availability of specific manufactured products commonly used in FHWA-funded projects, which will help guide FHWA implementation, should the waiver be rescinded.

 More information is available on the NPRM and RFI on FHWA’s Buy America web page.