On February 13, the Senate’s committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation heard testimony about a range of topics concerning the transportation industries. This included topics that the trucking industry in particular is most concerned with such as, the fuel tax, vehicle miles traveled tax (VMT) and trucking specific areas like truck emissions, parking and the driver shortage. Here’s what went on during this hearing.
Fuel Tax vs. VMT Tax
The topic of whether the federal fuel tax should be used to provide immediate funding for our nation’s crumbling infrastructure was discussed. Many of the senators and representatives from American Trucking Associations agreed that there was a need for an increase. However, there was concern over whether this increase would have a negative impact on lower income families and truckers who live in rural areas who need to drive a greater distance. The suggestion for the long-term is that the fuel tax could eventually be replaced with a VMT tax, which could be a fairer solution.
Funding Needed for Truck Parking
ATA President Chris Spear highlighted the need to give priority to funding truck parking projects on highways. These projects have not received the funding they deserve. Todd Spencer, President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) agreed saying:
For too long, Congress and federal transportation agencies have done very little to address this issue. Truckers need more safe places to park, not more studies that do nothing to increase or preserve capacity. This is a critical highway safety issue that deserves dedicated federal funding.
Differing Opinions on Driver Shortage
Spear and the ATA suggests lowering the age requirement for interstate truckers from 21 to 18 to help solve the driver shortage. However, Spencer reiterated the OOIDA long-held stance against lowering the age because of safety concerns. The OOIDA backs raising the age and disagrees there is an actual driver shortage. Instead, they claimed the trucking industry has a very high turnover.
Truck Emissions and Climate Change
Wildfires and flooding cost the United States $300 billion a year. One senator expressed his concern on what more can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are helping these fuel climate-related disasters. The senator asked the ATA about the possible electrification of trucking fleets. President Spear responded that this is already an industry topic and said that whether legislation is needed in that area is open to debate.
Topics: Trucking Laws/Regulations