Quick action is needed in finding a sustainable funding source for the Highway Trust Fund, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that Congress on June 17.
“It is important for all to understand that the decisions made by this Committee over the next few months will have effects beyond the immediate solvency issues. The federal commitment to investment in transportation, if not properly addressed this year, could be placed in jeopardy for many years, or even decades, to come,” Graves testified.
“This is not just an esoteric debate about a line item in a budget. Congress’ actions have real consequences, and the decisions this Committee makes will determine whether a business succeeds or fails and whether a job is created or eliminated. And most importantly, these decisions will determine the safety of the motoring public as well as the safety and efficiency of the millions of professional drivers operating daily on our highway system.”
In his testimony, Graves focused on the needs of our highways system, noting that Interstate congestion alone cost the trucking industry $9.2 billion in 2013 and wasted more than 141 million hours – the equivalent of 51,000 drivers sitting idle for a full working year.
“While the trucking industry already makes a substantial contribution to the Highway Trust Fund, clearly federal investment is falling short, and we are therefore willing to support an even greater commitment,” he said, adding that new revenue sources to ensure stable and long-term funding for the Trust Fund should apply uniformly across types of highway users; be based on verifiable highway and vehicle use; not be easily evaded; inexpensive and efficient to administer and not impede interstate commerce.
Among the mechanisms that fit those criteria, Graves said, are increasing and indexing the fuel tax, a new highway access fee, royalties from oil and gas leases and a barrel tax on imported petroleum and domestic crude oil production.
Graves said increasing other user fees like the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, the federal excise tax on trucks or truck tires would not raise sufficient revenue and a vehicle miles traveled tax or tolling are highly inefficient.