A national coalition of transportation companies said it supports major components within President Obama’s four-year $302 billion transportation plan released this week, however, there is one area in which it disagrees.
The Trucking Alliance, also know as The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, is urging Congress to create new revenue for the nation’s infrastructure by increasing the federal diesel fuel tax rate, rather than giving states more authority to toll highways, as President Obama’s plan would do.
The administration’s plan currently does not call for any fuel tax hike, with neither many Democrats or Republicans at least supporting one in an election year, however, such an increase is still being discussed, including by one high-ranking Senate member.
“I applaud the President for proposing a long-term transportation plan and most of it is needed and workable,” said Steve Williams, chairman of the Trucking Alliance and CEO of the trucking company Maverick USA “But our congressional leaders must recognize that the only way to quickly repair our crumbling roads and bridges and improve safety for motorists is to increase user fees on a major industry that is already willing to pay them.”
The Obama administration’s proposal to give states more authority to toll highways is problematic, Williams said, but if Congress doesn’t allow the trucking industry to pay more to help repair highways and bridges, “tolling could be the nation’s only option by default.”
Williams cited a study released yesterday by the American Transportation Research Institute, of which he is also chairman, in which it’s estimated that congestion on the nation’s Interstate highways added more than $9.2 billion in operational costs to the trucking industry in 2013.
“If congestion is costing the trucking industry more than $9.2 billion per year, imagine the total cost in lost productivity on every citizen and the time we waste sitting in traffic going to or from work each day,” he said.
Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, said that billions of dollars are needed to just bring highways back to the quality they were decades ago.
“The risk we run by Congress doing nothing will be more traffic accidents, more highway congestion, unsafe roads, possible bridge disasters, and a distribution network that could slip behind many industrialized countries,” he said.
Kidd pointed out Congress hasn’t raised the diesel fuel tax rate since 1993, almost 21 years ago.
“Highways don’t get better with age like fine wine,” added Kidd. “Highways require more maintenance over time, and that means more money, for the safety of our motorists, our truck drivers, and our nation’s economy,” he said.
Despite this major difference the Trucking Alliance says there are proposals in the Obama administration’s highway funding plan that it supports including:
- Reducing project approval timelines;
- Greater emphasis on intermodal shipping;
- More rapid environmental reviews;
- Funding to bolster efficient and reliable freight networks;
- Giving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration authority to recall electronic logging devices if the devices fail to meet certification requirements; and
- Making sure that drug offenders do not receive a commercial drivers license until they have completed a rehabilitation program.
The American Trucking Associations long ago went on record when it comes to supporting a fuel-tax hike earmarked toward highway and bridge projects.
The Trucking Alliance includes trucking companies Maverick Transportation, Knight Transportation, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Dupre Logistics and others. It has spoken out in favor of other issues involving the trucking industry including mandatory speed limiters on trucks, electronic logging devices for drivers and other safety issues.