ATA president and CEO Chris Spear spoke before Congress about the importance of a strong plan for infrastructure funding. Photo: U.S. DOT

ATA president and CEO Chris Spear spoke before Congress about the importance of a strong plan for infrastructure funding. Photo: U.S. DOT

American Trucking Associations president and CEO Chris Spear appeared before Congress, urging the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to act quickly and intelligently on the infrastructure funding plan.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Spear asked committee members to put aside partisan differences and do what is necessary to fix the nation’s roads and bridges.

“It is very clear that doing nothing will impose a much higher cost on the American people and on the industry I represent,” said Spear. “The trucking industry loses more than $63 billion every year because of congestion on our highway system. That’s 362,000 truck drivers sitting idle for an entire year. And as much as we liked the tax cut we got last year, we’re going to give it all back because that $63 billion is like a 9% tax on our industry. These are the costs of doing nothing.”

Spear also pushed the ATA’s own Infrastructure plan called the Build America Fund. The plan calls for a 20-cent user fee to be collected on wholesale purchases of motor fuel to pay for repairs and improvements. According to the ATA, such a plan wouldn’t increase the budget deficit and would add 340 billion in new revenue over the first 10 years.

Spear also cautioned Congress that not having a comprehensive infrastructure bill has led to an increase in toll roads and borrowed money from foreign governments.

“You have toll rates up to $47 for just one 10-mile trip. Rhode Island is using a loophole in federal law to discriminate against trucks by charging a truck-only toll on more than a dozen bridges,” said Spear. “And some are promoting the idea of selling off public infrastructure to the highest bidder, leaving the people who rely on those facilities to hold the bag for the multinational corporations who will reap the profits for decades after the short-term infusion of cash that states and cities get in return is spent.”

This is likely in reference on President Trump’s recently proposed $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan that only provided $200 billion in direct federal investment and funded the rest of the $1.3 Trillion through tolls and private investment. 

The issue is of high importance to ATA. The organization recently launched a new initiative to highlight the infrastructure problem in America called Road to a Better Future. The initiative included a new website with educational videos, and a call to action. At the Technology & Maintenance Council’s 2018 Annual Meeting Spear reiterated the ATA’s desire to play a bigger role in influencing national policy and legislation on behalf of the trucking industry.

In his testimony, Spear reiterated his point that partisan politics was not the way to solve the issue. He highlighted the fact that Ronald Regan twice raised the user fee in order to fund infrastructure.

“Roads and bridges are not Republican or Democrat; they aren’t free or cheap,” said Spear. “It’s time to stop pointing fingers and making excuses and start investing in our future.”