Speaking at a National Press Club press conference hosted by Consumers For More Energy, ATA Senior Vice President Tim Lynch encouraged Congress to implement policies that will reduce oil demand, accelerate the development of research and technology, prudently increase government oversight of the petroleum markets and increase domestic oil supplies.
"ATA recognizes that the solution to this problem is multi-faceted," said Lynch. "We need a broad relief agenda that includes increasing domestic oil production to address the escalating cost of fuel and relieve the financial hardships of the trucking industry and all drivers."
Lynch was joined at the press conference by the American Highway Users Alliance, National Defense Council Foundation, The National Grange and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.
The trucking industry is experiencing the highest prolonged fuel prices in history. For most motor carriers, fuel has surpassed labor as their largest expense. It currently costs $1,400 to fill a typical tractor trailer's fuel tanks. Fuel cost increases ultimately will increase the cost of everything delivered by truck.
Because trucking is a highly competitive industry with very low profit margins, many trucking companies are reporting that higher fuel prices are greatly suppressing profits, if they are making a profit at all. According to Avondale Partners, in the first quarter of 2008, nearly 1,000 trucking companies with at least five trucks failed. This represents the largest number of trucking-related failures since the 2001 third quarter. In another report, the U.S. Department of Labor said that for-hire trucking companies decreased payrolls by over 10,000 during the first five months of this year.
ATA is urging the federal government to help bring down the price of diesel fuel and to alleviate trucking companies' hardships by doing the following:
• Allow environmentally responsible exploration of oil-rich areas in the United States that are now off-limits;
• Allow environmentally responsible development of crude resources in oil shale and tar sands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming;
• Streamline EPA's regulatory framework for reviewing and processing applications for additional refinery operations;
• Establish a national diesel fuel standard;
• Work with the 50 state Attorneys General to combat any fuel price gouging that might occur;
• Continue to fund EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership Program, which encourages fuel-saving strategies;
• Require speed limiters set for 68 mph or lower on all new trucks;
• Set a national maximum speed limit of 65 mph;
• Eliminate the collection of the 12 percent federal excise tax on motor carriers' purchase of auxiliary power units (APUs), which cut the consumption of fuels in idling truck engines;
• Require states to grant a weight exemption for APUs;
• Eliminate "splash and dash" - a tax benefit for imported biodiesel that is subsequently exported; and
• Release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.