"I am deeply concerned about the significant increases in toll costs that have been imposed on NFI and other trucking companies over the past few years," said Grabell, testifying on behalf of American Trucking Associations during a hearing of the Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.
Grabell told the Committee's chairman, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and other members that in 2011 alone the Cherry Hill, N.J., carrier paid $14 million in tolls.
"These added costs have forced us to re-route our trucks to less efficient secondary roads, which raises our costs and increases congestion and safety concerns," he said. "In addition to the impact increased tolls have on logistics providers, the added costs associated with toll increases filter down to the consumer and affect business decisions regarding hiring and facility location and expansion.
"Where toll facilities serve interstate traffic, we believe that federal oversight and possible intervention in determining toll rates is necessary and appropriate," Grabell said, urging the committee to support the Commuter Protection Act, introduced by Chairman Lautenberg to provide federal oversight for toll authorities.
"While there are many examples of actions by tolling authorities that merit federal attention, I would like to cite two examples which have been brought to light by recent state audits - the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Delaware River Port Authority."
Grabell said the planned increases in tolls on the bridges between New York and New Jersey operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would increase tolls 163% by 2015, to a total of $105 per truck, "nearly three times greater than the country's next highest bridge toll," adding that it "appears the vast majority of the revenue will be used to benefit seaports and airports and to complete the reconstruction of the World Trade Center office buildings."
Meanwhile, according to a state audit the DRPA has "violated many of its own policies and procedures" during the past decade including using $440 million for economic development funds "at the expense of critical bridge maintenance and improvement projects."
"Congress has an obligation under the Constitution's Commerce Clause to ensure that interstate travelers, who may not be represented when toll rate setting and spending decisions are made, have a voice in these processes," Grabell said, adding that ATA believes the Commuter Protection Act "is a significant step toward ensuring better oversight of tolling authorities that serve interstate traffic."