With just five weeks left for Congress to act on some kind of highway-funding measure, the American Trucking Associations said on Thursday that it remains committed to seeing a surface transportation package passed this year that will ensure a long-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund.
“Roads and bridges are not Republican or Democratic. We all drive on them and they should not be a political issue,” said ATA’s Chief of Legislative Affairs Christopher Spears at a media briefing the association held in Washington, D.C. “The problem is not going to go away without a [long-term] solution.”
That fix must start with funding reform, he said, noting that the “can has a lot of dents from being kicked down the road so many times.
The truck lobby wants to see an end to short-term HTF patches. But Spears said it doesn’t want to change the mechanism for funding highway infrastructure. “ATA will continue to advocate for increases in user fees [federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes paid at point of purchase] indexed to inflation” to fund highway repairs and construction.”
Spears said that compared to other HTF funding proposals being floated in Washington, including funding responsibility devolving to the states and more tolling, especially of existing highways, taxing fuel is “a simple, workable system.”
But he acknowledged that hiking fuel taxes is an uphill battle. “There must be a political appetite in the House and Senate to act on it. Still, it is not a partisan issue and we are staying on message with [increasing these] user fees.”
On the regulatory front, Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice resident and chief of national advocacy, said the association’s “first and foremost priority is to make sure the final rule on electronic logging devices stays on track to be published in September.” He added that he was “pleased to report that seems to be the case” as of now.
Osiecki and Spear also outlined other key regulatory initiatives for ATA during 2015:
- Establishing a national clearinghouse for drug-and-alcohol testing of truck drivers that motor carriers can quickly access.
- Allowing hair sampling as a secondary option to urinalysis to detect drug and alcohol use by drivers
- Improving the CSA program to “ensure that scores are accurate and reliable.”
- Keeping in suspension the 34-hour restart rule until DOT has analyzed the impact of that change.
- Ensuring truck speed-limiter rule is adopted “as there should be no debate on implementing this rule.”
- Pushing for development of a graduated CDL to help draw in younger recruits. Osiecki noted that age-graduated licenses are “not a new concept for passenger car drivers” and that it’s “important to conduct research on this to attract people to this industry.