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Werner COO to House panel: Address real freight tansport needs

Derek Leathers, Werner Enterprises COO, told a House panel Wednesday that in the future the trucking industry was expected to carry an even greater share of freight than it does now. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

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WASHINGTON —  Derek Leathers, chief operating officer of Werner Enterprises Inc., told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday that Congress needs to address the needs of the trucking industry by dedicating real funding to addressing freight transportation needs and improving the efficiency and productivity of the industry.

Leathers was testifying at the first hearing of the recently appointed panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation. The panel will study the importance of freight transportation to the U.S. economy, the current operation of the freight network, what challenges impact the network’s performance and what can be done to improve the efficiency and safety of freight transportation.

“Trucks move 68 percent of our nation’s freight tonnage . . . [and] move $8.3 trillion worth of freight each year, nearly 60 percent of the U.S. economy,” Leathers said. “The trucking industry is expected to move an even greater share of freight in the future.”

To address that demand, Leathers said lawmakers should dedicate specific funds to projects that will benefit freight transportation like reducing or eliminating bottlenecks in the Interstate Highway System and intermodal freight connections.

Revenue to fund these projects, he said, should come not from tolls, vehicle miles traveled fees or widespread private investment, but rather from augmenting the current fuel tax system.

“The challenges facing fuel tax revenue over the next 20 years can be addressed by indexing the rate,” he said. “Substituting an untested, highly inefficient revenue collection mechanisms for an efficient revenue mechanism that is already in place would be illogical and irresponsible.”

Finally, Leathers called on Congress to address truck productivity by lifting “the most restrictive truck weight regulations of any developed country.”

With projected increases in freight traffic, more productive trucks will be essential to meet the nation’s transportation needs.

Others who testified at the hearing included Fred Smith, chairman, president and CEO of the FedEx Corp.; Charles W. Moorman, chairman, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern Corp.;  James Newsome, president and CEO, South Carolina Ports Authority; and Edward Wytkind, president, Transportation Trades Department of AFL-CIO.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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