Congress should set aside ideological partisanship and put forward a bold infrastructure investment package to address deteriorating roads and bridges, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said.
“While ATA recognizes how difficult it is for members of Congress to commit to, or even openly discuss, the types of spending needed to address our ailing roads and bridges, as well as the revenue raisers necessary to get there, it is very clear that doing nothing will impose a much higher cost on the American people and on the industry I represent,” Spear told the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Each year motorists spend more than $1,500 due to lack of infrastructure investment—$500 spent repairing their vehicles and nearly $1,000 more wasted sitting in traffic. 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.”
In his testimony, Spear cited ATA’s proposed “Build America Fund,” a 20-cent user fee collected on wholesale purchases of motor fuel, as a solution for paying for needed road and bridge repairs and improvements.
“Unlike tolls or mileage fees, it’s extremely inexpensive to collect. More than 99 cents of every dollar will be spent on transportation projects and programs, not paying for new bureaucracies or lining the pockets of foreign banks,” he said. “It doesn’t grow the budget deficit and it is real money—$340 billion in new, additional revenue over the first 10 years.”
Spear highlighted the cost of inaction: a national transportation network broken up by tolls, or paid for by borrowing from foreign governments.
“Doing nothing costs drivers 15 times more than they’d pay under our proposal,” he said in a statement issued March 7. “Borrowing money from China just passes the buck to future generations, with interest. Some states, in desperation, are resorting to tolls. Look at I-66, just a stone’s throw from Capitol Hill. 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,” he said. “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.”
In concluding his testimony, Spear pointed out that, in the past, transportation was not a partisan issue, highlighting the fact that, as president, Ronald Reagan raised the user fee twice.
“Roads and bridges are not Republican or Democrat; they aren’t free or cheap. It’s time to stop pointing fingers and making excuses and start investing in our future,” he said.
ATA is a national trade association for the trucking industry.