In a surprising move, the US trucking industry has actually said it would welcome higher fuel taxes. The caveat being, the money would have to be set aside for infrastructure funding. And we’re not talking bicycle paths here, which sadly has been where some of the current fuel tax revenue generated in the US has been directed.
American Trucking Associations president Bill Graves recently told the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, that the industry prefers fuel taxes as a source of funding for the nation’s highways. It opposes slapping tolls on existing highways.
“We are prepared to pay,” he said. “We do favour fuel tax as a method of payment. And we believe in a program that is tied to system use. The sense now is that given the right plan, there could be some great things accomplished.”
It’s an interesting view, and one that certainly won’t be shared by many motor carriers. Canadian carriers operating in the US will also have to pay if they fuel up south of the border. But those companies will also benefit if roads are kept in better condition and congestion is alleviated.
The federal fuel tax on diesel in the US is 24.4 cents per gallon and it hasn’t been increased since 1993.
Grave’s position echoes comments made by FedEx Freight CEO Doug Duncan made at last year’s Ontario Trucking Association convention. He too said the US government should hike fuel taxes and allot that money specifically to highway funding. Perhaps these comments signal a changing philosophy in the trucking industry, or according to ATA economist Bob Costello, a ‘maturing.’
Costello was at Bizcon 11 (Bridgestone Firestone’s annual dealer conference) earlier this week. He said inadequate infrastructure costs the US trucking industry $7.8 billion per year and the industry has come to terms with the fact it will have to help shoulder the costs of bringing that infrastructure up to par. He said the industry’s voluntary tax increase is one of several signs the industry has come of age in recent years.
Truckers may not like the idea of shelling out even more at the pumps than they already do. But if it means spending less time in traffic or having to fix fewer parts that were broken due to bumpy roads, perhaps it’s a small price to pay.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies