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N.J. trucking exec warns Senate on the true cost of tolls

Speaking on behalf of the American Trucking Associations, NFI Chief Financial Officer Steve Grabell urged the committee to support the Commuter Protection Act to provide federal oversight for toll authorities.

The Trucker News Services

4/19/2012

WASHINGTON — In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, NFI Chief Financial Officer Steve Grabell warned that rapidly increasing toll rates, as well as the spread of tolls across the transportation system, are a threat to consumers and to the trucking industry.

“I am deeply concerned about the significant increases in toll costs that have been imposed on NFI and other trucking companies over the past few years,” Grabell said during a hearing of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

Grabell told the Committee’s chairman, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and other members that in 2011 alone the Cherry Hill, N.J., carrier paid $14 million in tolls.

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“These added costs have forced us to re-route our trucks to less efficient secondary roads, which raises our costs and increases congestion and safety concerns,” he said. “In addition to the impact increased tolls have on logistics providers, the added costs associated with toll increases filter down to the consumer and affect business decisions regarding hiring and facility location and expansion.”

Speaking on behalf of the American Trucking Associations, Grabell urged the committee to support the Commuter Protection Act, introduced by Chairman Lautenberg to provide federal oversight for toll authorities.

“Where toll facilities serve interstate traffic, we believe that federal oversight and possible intervention in determining toll rates is necessary and appropriate,” Grabell said.

He pointed to the planned increases in tolls on the bridges between New York and New Jersey operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would increase tolls 163 percent by 2015, to a total of $105 per truck, “nearly three times greater than the country’s next highest bridge toll,” adding that it “appears the vast majority of the revenue … will be used to benefit seaports and airports and to complete the reconstruction of the World Trade Center office buildings.”

Meanwhile, according to a state audit the Delaware River Port Authority has “violated many of its own policies and procedures” over the past decade including using $440 million for economic development funds “at the expense of critical bridge maintenance and improvement projects.“

“Congress has an obligation under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to ensure that interstate travelers, who may not be represented when toll rate setting and spending decisions are made, have a voice in these processes,” Grabell said, adding that ATA believes the Commuter Protection Act “is a significant step toward ensuring better oversight of tolling authorities that serve interstate traffic.”

For Grabell’s full testimony, click here.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at kevinj@thetrucker.com.

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