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The Last Word

Not Backing Down: The Fight for Highway Funding

By Philip Byrd, Guest Writer

Congestion and gridlock are, unfortunately, a way of life for us in the trucking industry. Traffic delays add costs, waste fuel and time and generally make the job of delivering America’s goods challenging.

Gridlock and congestion have also seized up our government in Washington – delaying critical actions that could make the job of delivering America’s good easier.

First, in June the Senate appeared poised to make our highways safer by easing the restrictions on the use of the hours-of-service restart. The Senate Appropriations Committee – by a bipartisan 21-9 vote – adopted language proposed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would have lifted the restriction on using the restart more than once a week and the requirement that the restart include two periods between 1 and 5 a.m. for a year while the impact on safety were studied.

These restrictions, as we know, prevent drivers from getting rest when conditions are bad and are pushing drivers to hit the road as morning roads are becoming – you guessed it – congested and gridlocked. And to make these outcomes worse, the head of the FMCSA told Congress they did not study what these restrictions would do to safety and told leaders at American Trucking Associations (ATA) that the restrictions caused “unintended consequences.”

Two things have delayed this relief: First, our industry’s critics took to the media to distort the industry’s efforts to promote safety, trotting out the tired, disproven tropes about trucking and fatigue and safety. This led to a brief battle on the Senate floor – a battle ATA was confident we would have won had partisan disagreement not created a procedural snag that led to the bill including the Collins Amendment being set aside and ultimately not voted on.

Now, that bill provides funding for the Department of Transportation, and several other federal agencies, so the Senate must eventually move something forward – and we expect that given the strong bipartisan vote by the Appropriations Committee the Collins language will ultimately be the law of the land.

The congressional gridlock that derailed the Collins amendment is also threatening to wreak havoc on our infrastructure. Sometime this summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money. The Obama administration has begun slowing the rate of spend in order to keep the Fund solvent for as long as possible, but Congress and the administration need to act to allow important highway and bridge work to continue.

Disputes about how to pay for highway and bridge projects have stalled efforts to not just fix the Highway Trust Fund, but enact a long-term, well-funded highway bill. We believe, and there are a few members of Congress from both parties who agree, that a fuel tax increase is necessary, but it continues to be an uphill battle.

ATA continues to, in spite of the gridlock, advocate on behalf trucking. It is this advocacy that can – hopefully – break the gridlock and make it possible for Washington to make the job of delivering America’s good easier.

Philip Byrd is the president and CEO of Charleston, South Carolina Bulldog Hiway Express. Bulldog is a 55-year old for-hire trucking firm serving the truckload intermodal segments of the industry. Byrd currently serves as chairman of the American Trucking Associations.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

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Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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