DALLAS, TX. — Don’t expect much action on transportation issues from Washington over the next few years, said American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) President and CEO Bill Graves to an audience of Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference (CVOC) attendees this morning.
Graves gave a brief rundown of the headwinds and tailwinds that the American trucking industry is currently navigating, starting with and ending with politics.
“I suppose some of you are going to yawn, or just go ‘why?’ Because it’s the world we work in and it’s the world that dictates our success and failures, whether it’s a policy issue or a regulatory issue.”
Graves said that as it relates to transportation, Obama is fabulous at “talking the talk, but not walking the walk. He probably has been more vocal and outspoken about transportation in our nation than any president I can remember. Unfortunately, it’s not getting backed-up with action.”
A lot of that action has to do with funding, he said.
“Why would anybody in congress want to put their toe in the water on raising the fuel tax if the president is not going to help you out? You need to have someone give you some cover, and here he is in his second term and yet unwilling to take that kind of a gambit.”
The former two-term Kansas governor pointed out that he raised fuel taxes “not once, but twice” and voters stayed with him. “Folks get it — roads aren’t cheap and free.”
Graves added that Obama has “many things coming at him, so many policies, that it’s hard for him to get a break.” Things like the healthcare program, obviously important to the administration, National Security Agency problems, immigration reforms, and foreign policy concerns.
“And finally, we’re trying to figure out our own financial problems in this country; we need to do something on tax reform, we’re starting to see some of the implications of the sequestration and we’ve got a debt ceiling issue looming over the congress.
“That doesn’t bode well for getting a whole lot done on issues that matter to us.”
Graves also noted that the Highway Trust Fund is being drained more quickly than it’s being filled. Twenty-five percent of the funds in the Highway Trust is going to public transportation. “We’re not going to drive that number down, but we’re darn sure not going to support the number going up. There will be conditions on our support that make darn sure the money that’s flowing into the Trust Fund, funds road and bridge construction to the tune of what it does today. The way those other funding diversions are locked in, we’re not going to get them changed — that’s just the way Washington works.”
Still, Graves stressed earlier in his talk that it’s important to get engaged with politicians, “Everybody has different political leanings, but I just like to see everyone involved. Be engaged, because the outcomes in these elections do matter to your personal and professional lives.”
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