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Tolling Points

Truckers Push for Long-Term Highway Funding Bill

By: 
Bill Cramer

As it became clear that Congress will yet again pass another short-term highway funding patch, the U.S. trucking industry came out with a pitch-perfect assessment of the crisis facing the country’s transportation infrastructure.

“To move America forward, the trucking industry needs sustainable, efficient and robust funding—not petty politics—to support our nation's network of roads and bridges,” wrote Kevin Burch, co-chair of Trucking Moves America Forward, in a May 18 op ed in Roll Call. (Note: The Trucking Moves America Forward is not the same campaign as IBTTA’s Moving America Forward Campaign launched on January 10, 2013.)

“Rather than putting up more roadblocks through inaction, Congress needs to pass a fully-funded, long-term highway funding bill that can pave the way for the future of the trucking industry—and America.”

If you had heard that comment out of context, you would have been forgiven for thinking you were attending IBTTA’s legislative briefing in March. Or our highway finance and road usage charging conference in April.

Or any number of other events over the last five, 10, or 15 years.

An Expanded Toolbox

Everyone in the tolling industry agrees with Burch that “our country deserves a strong, efficient and modernized transportation system to uphold the nation's commerce and infrastructure system as well as to remain globally competitive.” While truckers and commercial business are a large part of our customer base, toll owners and operators strive to provide safe, reliable, less congested travel to all customers.

It may take one more short-term patch (and, we hear, maybe one more after that) for Congress to achieve long-term transportation fund that is sustainable. It is clear that, when it comes to the trucking industry and the tolling industry, the values we hold in common should outweigh our differences.

Both industries have an interest in efficient, predictable mobility.

Both recognize the need to get on with the job of clearing a multi-billion-dollar transportation infrastructure deficit.

Both have witnessed the steady erosion of gas tax revenues, the political perils attached to a federal gas tax increase, and the deteriorating highway conditions that have resulted.

Both realize time is money and no one likes idling in traffic whether headed for the beach, work or making a delivery.

Common Ground Saves $105 Million Per Year

Finding common ground on a workable funding package should not and need not mean endorsing tolls for every road. America’s highway system is large and diverse enough that it demands a toolbox of funding options, with enough flexibility for states to choose the funding options that best suit their circumstances.

That’s something tolling agencies and the country’s heaviest highway users should be able to discuss. And in fact, the conversation is already well under way.

At IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Austin, Texas last September:

Then ATA Second Vice Chairman Pat Thomas, Vice President, Public Affairs for UPS Inc., reiterated his organization’s opposition to tolling existing interstate capacity, even after it reluctantly opted to support a higher federal gas tax. But truckers accept existing toll roads and support tolls to build new capacity. “The worst [highway] bottlenecks are very problematic for our members, as well as the motoring public,” he said. “So there is a value proposition to doing some different things that would move traffic along at a better rate.”

Earlier last year, at IBTTA’s 2014 Summit on Legislation, Policy & Infrastructure Finance, Thomas noted that:

“If every one of our drivers sits in traffic for five minutes every day that costs our company $105 million a year.”

With FedEx Chairman and CEO Frederick W. Smith predicting larger loads on the road, the need to keep up with highway maintenance and ease congestion will become ever more important to freight and courier companies. It’s hard to think of a better, more urgent reason for Congress to hand states a wider toolbox of funding options, and many states will carefully consider tolling as part of the solution. Heck, tolling already has a long, proven record in 35 states.

Click here for the latest on IBTTA’s Moving America Forward campaign.

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