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ATA exec tells Congress of urgent need to address U.S. infrastructure

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American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear, left, chats with Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Roger F. Wicker before the hearing on February 13. (Courtesy: AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Saying that the nation is on the cusp of a transformation in the movement of freight, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear Wednesday told a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that there is an urgent need to address the nation’s failing infrastructure, pressing the committee to put forward a real solution that includes new revenues, including a fee at the terminal fuel rack.

The title of the hearing was “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy.”

Spear said radical technological change will, in the near future, allow trucks to move more safely and efficiently, and with less impact on the environment than the country ever dared to imagine. “Yet we are facing headwinds, due almost entirely to government action or, in some cases inaction that will slow or cancel out entirely the benefits of innovation,” Spear said. “Failure to maintain and improve the highway system that your predecessors helped to create will destroy the efficiencies that have enabled U.S. manufacturers and farmers to continue to compete with countries that enjoy far lower labor and regulatory costs.”

Spear noted that just during the first full week of February, chunks of falling concrete struck cars traveling under bridges in California and Massachusetts.

“We are no longer facing a future highway maintenance crisis – we’re living it – and every day we fail to invest, we’re putting more lives at risk,” he said.

The nation’s crumbling and failing infrastructure is taking a tremendous toll on Americans’ time and their pocketbooks, and has impacted the trucking industry in a significant way, Spear said.

“Trucking now loses $74.5 billion sitting in gridlock. That equates to 1.2 billion lost hours or 425,000 truck drivers sitting idle for an entire year,” he said. “These are the regressive costs of doing nothing. And they are reflected in the prices we all pay. These costs to consumers and economy are measurable… and they can and should serve as offsets for new spending on our nation’s infrastructure. The road system is rapidly deteriorating and costs the average motorist nearly $1,600 a year in higher maintenance and congestion expenses.”

While the cost and scale of addressing highway improvement needs is daunting, it is important to note that much of the congestion is focused at a relatively small number of locations, Speaker told the committee.

“Just 17 percent of National Highway System miles represents 87 percent of total truck congestion costs nationwide,” Spear said. “Many of these locations are at highway bottlenecks that are identified annually by the American Transportation Research Institute. ATRI just released its latest freight bottlenecks report, which identifies the top 100 truck bottlenecks around the country.  The worst bottleneck was Interstate 95 at State Route 4 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. More than half of the bottlenecks are in states represented by members of this committee, including 13 in Texas, six in Connecticut, and five in Washington State.

To address the nation’s need to re-invest in its roads and bridges, Spear again pushed forward the Build America Fund – a 20-cent per gallon fee at the terminal fuel rack phased in over four years that would generate billions in new revenues for investment.

Trucking pays for nearly half the Highway Trust Fund, and we’re willing to pay more,” he said. “The Build America Fund would increase the price of fuel 20 cents per gallon at the fuel rack – just a nickel a year over four years – generating $340 billion over 10 years. This new revenue is real, not fake funding like P3’s and asset recycling.

“The Build America Fund is the most conservative proposal… costing less than .01 cent on the dollar to administer, versus up to .35 cents a dollar for tolling schemes,” Spear said.

“We are at a critical point in our country’s history, and the decisions made by this committee over the next few months will impact the safety and efficiency of freight transportation for generations,” Spear said. “ATA looks forward to working with you to develop and implement sound policy that benefits the millions of Americans and U.S. businesses that rely on a safe and efficient supply chain.”

 

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The Nation

Diesel heads up 4 cents a gallon to $3.006

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Diesel prices jumped 4 cents a gallon to ring up Tuesday at $3.006. (The Trucker file photo)

For the past several months, including the end of 2018, all the “experts” said oil (and consequently diesel) was going nowhere but up. It had to, they reasoned, after prices had almost literally scraped the bottom of the barrel.

Then oil and diesel both went down for weeks. After that it stayed the same.

Now diesel prices are finally up — 4 cents a gallon — to $3.006 a gallon Tuesday from $2.966 a gallon last week.

Normally, diesel prices would have been announced Monday, but since it was President’s Day, diesel prices were released Tuesday.

And it may be a testament to how long prices had been going down or stayed flat that none of the U.S. Information Administration’s 10 reporting regions were clocking $4-a-gallon diesel, not even California, where diesel was ringing up at $3.739.

Also, four regions were still below $3 a gallon as of Tuesday.

And although 4 cents a gallon for the on-highway national average was a significant jump from the week before, the Lower Atlantic and Midwest regions each jumped 5.5 cents a gallon. Diesel in the Lower Atlantic sector went from $2.872 last week to $2.927 Tuesday while in the Midwest, diesel prices went from $2.849 last week to $2.904 today.

The Gulf Coast had the lowest prices at $2.809 a gallon, up 3.3 cents from the week prior.

Is this the start of an upward trend? It’s hard to know what oil prices will do in a global economy that is teetering since what seems like a bandwagon jump out of the European Union.

Meanwhile, oil was trading up:

U.S. crude added 48 cents to $56.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after gaining $1.19 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 16 cents to $66.34 per barrel, The Associated Press reported.

For diesel prices by sector, click here.

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Ohio governor to reveal gas tax hike plan Thursday

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Ohio's tp Transportation Department executive says the state is facing an "impending crisis" unless more road funding is provided. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine says he’ll announce Thursday his proposed recommendation for increasing the state’s gas tax to deal with a chronic shortfall in spending on road construction.

DeWine, a Republican, says there are no other solutions outside a gas tax increase, while warning that any increase simply keeps Ohio from falling behind.

He wouldn’t provide details or say what the proposed increase will be. He spoke at an annual forum sponsored by The Associated Press.

DeWine says the increase is “just to keep us where we are today.”

The head of the Ohio Department of Transportation director said earlier this month that Ohio’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an “impending crisis” unless more funding is provided.

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OOIDA Foundation issues information it says debunks driver shortage ‘myth’

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Most carriers with high turnover do so by design, says OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions,” he said.

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s research foundation published two new documents it says debunks the driver shortage “myth.”

A fact sheet explains how the industry isn’t afflicted with a shortage of drivers, but is actually plagued with overcapacity and driver retention, the foundation reported.

A second, accompanying document talks about how wages have decreased for truck drivers at large carriers and many have moved toward smaller fleets.

Last year, the association also created a short video that explains why there is high turnover as opposed to a shortage.

“We are concerned about the perpetuation of a myth of driver shortage,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA President. “This misinformation is used to push agendas that are harmful to the industry and highway safety.”

To address the supposed driver “shortage,” some organizations have suggested that the age requirement to obtain a commercial driver’s license should be lowered from 21 to 18.

“If safety is the top priority when considering a change to a regulation, when it comes to age, the number should be raised, not lowered.” Spencer said.

OOIDA also contends that any issue with retention could be mitigated with other solutions that would be safer for all highway users.

For example, compensation has been shown to be tied directly to highway safety, as revealed in studies that suggest there is a strong correlation between driver pay and highway safety, Spencer said.

“Most carriers with high turnover do so by design,” he said. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions. But putting younger drivers behind the wheel of a truck isn’t the solution because it does nothing to address the underlying issues that push drivers out of the industry. It merely exacerbates the churn.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Missouri, area.

 

 

 

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