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US commission calls for dramatic increase in fuel taxes to pay for sub-standard infrastructure

WASHINGTON D.C. -- A recent report by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission has d...

WASHINGTON D.C. — A recent report by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission has drawn both praise and criticism from the American trucking community. The report calls for, among other things, the increase of fuel taxes by as much as 40 cents per gallon to pay for infrastructure improvements. The report says that an annual investment of $225 billion is necessary over the next 50 years to update the current system to a state of good repair. Less than 40% of this total is currently being spent, according to the commission.

The American Trucking Associations has commended the efforts of the commission “for its hard work and dedication to analyzing the future infrastructure needs of the nation.”

“As the Commission report makes clear, trucking is, and will remain, the dominant mode of freight transportation,” the ATA said in a release.

ATA officials say fixing infrastructure problems in the US is “a significant financial undertaking” and noted the “current revenue streams are failing to keep pace with infrastructure needs.”

The ATA release said the report acknowledged the need for a new and improved investment strategy which “not only supports the health of the highways, but the health of our future economy. One that includes a combination of steps designed to ease congestion, alleviate bottlenecks and repair aging infrastructure.”

ATA said it was particularly pleased that the commission recognizes the need to address freight movement; the important role that goods movement plays in the overall health of the US economy; the need to reform the program to ensure a more performance-based system; and the need to maintain a user-fee based system.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is also applauding the commission’s “positive contribution,” saying the group is “making a strong recommendation for change.”

“We have been saying for some time now that America needs a new vision for how the nation’s transportation system is planned, funded and implemented,” AAA representatives said. The AAA said that based on its research, it found that the motoring public may be willing to pay more in taxes “provided they trust that the money is invested responsibly in programs and projects that will provide enhanced safety, improved mobility and system reliability.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) however, disagreed with the commission’s call to increase fuel taxes, saying instead that there needs to be a restructuring of the way money from the Highway Trust Fund is used.

“They need to show us the money,” says Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of OOIDA. “Where it’s going, how it is being used, what are our true national needs, how the system is going to be cleaned up top to bottom, and then we’ll talk about paying more.”

“Truckers pay enormous sums into the Highway Trust Fund, contributing as much as 36% of it, and deserve better than just ‘a new beginning’ which really just means paying even more money.”

Three members of the 12-member commission sided with OOIDA’s stance on the tax increases, rejecting the idea outright. One of those members, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, has said that increasing federal gas taxes “is not leadership it is ludicrous.”

“According to recent surveys, the public overwhelmingly opposes the idea of raising (federal gas taxes). They have no confidence that their gas taxes which go into the Highway Trust Fund will be spent either wisely or well,” Peters was quoted as saying at a Portland seminar in October. “Washington’s misplaced priorities have caused Americans to lose trust in the trust fund. They are tired of paying for excellent bridges to nowhere and horrible commutes to everywhere else. And I do not blame them one bit.”

Peters has said the better way to move forward is offer incentives to states willing to pursue more efficient approaches to relieving congestion and invest federal funds more effectively.

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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