The American Trucking Associations announced its support for a bipartisan comprehensive energy bill that calls for domestic oil drilling, tax incentives and alternative energy research.

If enacted, The National Conservation, Environment, and Energy Independence Act would increase domestic production of energy by allowing exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf and vast Oil Shale Reserves; promote the use of alternative energy sources, such as biodiesel, by extending the biodiesel tax credit to ensure that consumers are incentivized to use this renewable resource; and target revenues produced from domestic oil leases to the development of energy conservation technologies. HR 6709 currently has 130 cosponsors.

ATA First Vice Chairman Charles "Shorty" Whittington and professional truck driver Tony Sifford spoke about the need for action on energy issues at a press conference Thursday at a press conference held by U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) during ATA's National Truck Driving Championships in Houston.

"Trucking delivers America. Trucks transport virtually 100 percent of groceries, medicine, clothing, appliances and even the fuel that's pumped at the local gas station," said Whittington. "Diesel fuel prices are hurting us and driving up the costs of all of these consumer goods. We need a comprehensive energy plan. The National Conservation, Environment, and Energy Independence Act is part of this comprehensive solution."

Tony Sifford, a professional truck driver with over 1.8 million accident-free miles, compared the year-over-year cost of fuel for his regular roundtrip route from Hillsville, Va., to Dallas, Texas. At this time last year, Sifford's fuel bill was $1,680. That same trip recently cost $2,826.

Sifford said truck drivers are doing their part to reduce fuel consumption by slowing truck speeds, reducing idling and properly maintaining equipment. Such steps, however, do not begin to offset the rising cost of fuel, he said.

"I'm trying to do my part," Sifford said. "But we can't continue to run our business at these high prices. The high cost of diesel is cutting into our already tight margins. I've had a number of friends go out of business already this year."

HR 6709 was introduced by Rep John Peterson (R-Pa.) and currently has 130 cosponsors.