truckstop and travel plaza operators from across the nation will convene to speak with members of Congress about critical issues facing the industry.
NATSO, the association representing travel plazas and truckstops, will have more than 50 travel plaza, truckstop and allied industry representatives meeting face-to-face with lawmakers and their staffs in more than 150 congressional offices.
Tim Lynch, senior vice president of Federation Relations and Strategic Planning at American Trucking Associations, will speak to members about the same highway issues affecting the trucking industry that brought NATSO members to Capitol Hill.
The Congressional Pie Reception on April 29 will conclude the event. While enjoying homemade pies prepared at three of the nation's truckstops, NATSO members will get the opportunity to mingle with members of Congress and their staff.
Following are the issues NATSO plans to address and the association's opinion on them:
Tolling and privatization hurts drivers and businesses.
NATSO's position: With the Highway Trust Fund predicted to spend more in 2009 than it receives from federal motor fuel taxes, both Congress and the White House are seeking measures to strengthen and increase trust fund revenues. Many states are seeking alternative sources of revenue to finance highway construction and maintenance projects, including placing tolls on existing free interstates and enhancing the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs).
In these arrangements, state governments contract with private equity companies to construct, maintain or manage a road. In turn, the PPP tolls the road to recoup the investment and benefit shareholders. Tolls equal double taxation for both the traveling public and the commercial trucking industry.
Tolling and the resulting traffic diversion also create a safety issue. To avoid paying tolls, drivers will utilize secondary roads that weren't built to handle large volumes of traffic. Travel centers, truckstops, restaurants, gasoline stations, convenience stores and lodging establishments have invested millions to build facilities and depend on the movement of traffic. Businesses that cater to the highway traveler play a vital role in supporting our communities by providing jobs and tax revenue. NATSO members will be asking their elected officials to oppose the tolling and privatization of our nation's highways.
Automatic Temperature Compensation mandates will raise fuel prices.
NATSO's position: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has introduced S. 1997, 'Future Accountability in Retail Fuel Act' or the 'FAIR Fuel Act," which would mandate that fuel retailers install automatic temperature compensation (ATC) equipment on their fuel dispensers within five years. In March Sen. McCaskill requested that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation schedule a hearing on it.
During office visits, members will advise legislators that any action to mandate ATC is premature and ask them to delay any action on this legislation until third-party studies examine the economic and scientific effects of ATC. There is no proven need for ATC and the equipment could cost the retail fueling industry about $4 billion. Those costs would have to be passed on to fuel consumers, with little proven or demonstrated benefit to them.
Rising credit card fees hurt retailers and consumers.
NATSO's position: NATSO members will be asking Congress to restore fairness to the credit card fee negotiating process by supporting and co-sponsoring H.R. 5546, The Credit Card Fair Fee Act, or the related Senate bill when it is introduced.
The legislation provides a transparent, open market solution to the ongoing problem of interchange fees, and simply provides merchants with the proper leverage to negotiate fair fees that accurately reflect the real cost of a credit card transaction.
Retailers across the country, including truckstops and travel plazas, are facing tremendous financial pressure as a result of the interchange fees they must pay when a customer uses a credit card during a transaction. As the price of fuel and other consumer goods continues to rise, travel plazas across the country are feeling the pressure these fees exert on a company's bottom line.
Congress must close "Splash and Dash" loophole.
NATSO's position: NATSO strongly encourages Congress to close the so called "splash and dash" loophole that allows producers of biodiesel to receive a U.S. government tax credit for biodiesel sold abroad.
The current law loophole allows biodiesel blenders and producers to claim renewable fuels tax payments by adding a small amount of diesel (1 percent) to biodiesel to create a B-99 mixture. The producer or blender is then eligible to receive a $1 per gallon renewable fuels tax credit from the U.S. Many then export the biodiesel mixture overseas, where some European governments also offer alternative fuel credits.
The lucrative U.S. tax credit has attracted barges of biodiesel from foreign countries including Brazil and Malaysia, who stop here just long enough to blend the biodiesel with a token amount of diesel, claim the U.S. tax payment and move on to Europe-receiving a large payment from the U.S. for biodiesel that was neither produced nor consumed in the U.S.
NATSO members will ask Congress to support the "Splash and Dash Correction Act of 2008", H.R. 5713, introduced by Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) as well as provisions in the House-passed energy tax legislation, H.R. 5351.
Consumer fuel prices driven by record-setting crude oil prices.
NATSO's position: Consumers and retailers alike have been increasingly frustrated with record-breaking prices for gasoline and diesel fuel. Drivers feel the pinch in their pocketbook, but retailers are also being squeezed by prices that rise much more quickly than the credit lines extended by their suppliers.
There's no question that the main driver of high fuel prices is the sky rocketing price of crude oil. Normally, crude oil prices are determined by global factors, including supply and demand, OPEC, international tensions and other dynamics.
There is another dynamic driving crude oil prices-excessive speculation by commodities traders. Trading on oil contracts takes place predominately on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) with over $1.5 trillion traded daily.
However, a growing number of trades (over one million contracts daily) are being made on "over the counter (OTC)" or electronic exchanges such as the International Commodity Exchange (ICE).
OTC exchanges are not subjected to the same record keeping requirements by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as physical exchanges (such as NYMEX). Because of this lack of oversight, the opportunity for market manipulation (leading to further price volatility) is high. NATSO members will ask Congress to approve adequate funding for CFTC oversight.
Contract trading volume has sky-rocketed in recent years. Increased funding will be needed to ensure that the commission can hire more staff, update its equipment and begin to more adequately oversee the diverse and rapidly growing commodity exchanges.