Source: American Trucking Trends 2014/U.S. DOT Image via ATA

Source: American Trucking Trends 2014/U.S. DOT Image via ATA

The American Trucking Associations is urging Congress to quickly adopt a short-term measure to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat to help ensure that a comprehensive long-term highway bill gets passed in this calendar year.

“The trucking industry moves nearly 70% of our nation’s freight tonnage and pays for nearly half of the Highway Trust Fund, so we have a lot of skin in this game,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement.

Alluding to ATA’s support of increasing federal fuel taxes, Graves pointed out that trucking is “willing to pay more at the pump to help Congress get a long-term solution for our infrastructure across the finish line in 2015. Our elected leaders should stop considering a lengthy delay that will certainly prevent passage of a long-term bill this year and vote to keep the highway program going through the summer while they craft a serious piece of long-term legislation.”

“We’re very concerned about our ability to pass a highway bill that leads us into the 21st Century,” added ATA First Vice Chairman Pat Thomas, Vice President at UPS. “We need Congress to pass a short-term patch and then immediately take into consideration a long-term highway bill. A five- or six-year bill that will provide the additional capacity that we need in this economy. We can’t afford any further delay.”

In speaking with HDT on the issue, Graves emphasized why pushing Congress to act on the short-term extension immediately is so critical to trucking. “It’s imperative to get a long-term bill done this year so the can doesn’t get kicked into the [politics of the] next presidential election.”

Graves allowed that funding remains the complicating factor. He told HDT that Congressional leaders are “not sure yet where they will find the money to fund the short-term extension let alone the fully funded long-term bill. They need to find $30 billion per year-- $100 billion plus for a long-term bill.”

According to ATA, trucking already pays $16.5 billion in federal highway user fees yet the lobby “has repeatedly urged Congress to raise the primary user fee – the fuel tax – in order to fund important projects to reduce congestion, improve capacity and efficiency and create jobs.”

Graves also told HDT that he is a “staunch believer in the user-pay mechanism” for funding infrastructure, via such “user fees” as fuel and excise taxes. “I’m concerned to think that model could collapse,” he added, “without a well-thought-out funding alternative in place.”