Arkansas Trucking Association

You are here: Home Article Archive The Last Word

The Last Word

Can America Follow Arkansas' Lead on Highways?

By Chris Spear

Sometimes Arkansas seems to be a step ahead of the rest of the country with its vision and leadership.

In March, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law what he called “the largest highway plan in the state’s history.” The legislation includes an increase of 3 cents for a gallon of gasoline and 6 cents more for diesel, and is expected to raise $95 million annually for the state’s highway system as part of a critical and ambitious new $300 million highway program.

In no small part, the successful passage of this legislation was due to the support of the Arkansas Trucking Association. The association had long pushed for a modest increase of the fuel tax, which had not been raised in a decade. Over that time, Arkansas – which has the 12th largest highway system in the nation – slipped to 43rd in spending on roads and bridges.

Arkansas was hardly the only state neglecting its infrastructure. Across most of the country, the traffic mess on our highways has grown as steadily as the Washington political gridlock that has perpetuated it. For years, truckers have endured the deteriorating state of our roads, bridges and highways as the Highway Trust Fund continues to dry up. Inaction has cost our industry 1.2 billion hours of lost productivity and $74.5 billion in additional operating costs to the nation’s supply chain.  We are now living in a crisis situation. 

But the action in Arkansas is just one of many promising signs of a breakthrough. Lawmakers from both parties appear to be moving in the right direction in Washington to finally address the infrastructure challenge.  The time for the trucking industry to act is now.

That’s why the American Trucking Associations proposed the Build America Fund (BAF)—a federal fuel usage fee built into the price, phased in at a nickel per year over four years. This new fee will generate an estimated $340 billion over the course of a decade.  This will not only cover the highway funding gap, but also create an account to invest in the nation’s most urgent infrastructure needs, including projects at the state and local level. The fee would be indexed to both inflation and improvements in fuel efficiency, with a five percent annual cap.

The costs to users are reasonable, with the average passenger vehicle paying a little more than $100 a year - far less than the repair, maintenance and wasted fuel that Americans are spending now imprisoned in their vehicles in traffic. 

This idea has been well received on Capitol Hill.  Key Democrats on congressional committees have indicated support for a modest increase in the fuel tax and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao indicated that an increase in the federal fuel user fee was “on the table.”  Even some past Republican opponents of the user fee are indicating a willingness to now consider it. There is realization that this is the most fiscally conservative proposal, costing less than 1 cent on the dollar to administer.  It is new and real revenue for our nation’s roads and bridges, unlike toll roads, which cost up to 35 cents per dollar raised to collect—literally, highway robbery. 

We are seizing on this moment by investing in an aggressive media and grassroots campaign.  A new TV ad, “Life Won’t Wait” effectively captures the desperation Americans feel every time they venture out onto a congested highway at rush hour.  The ad shows everyday people frustrated by their inability to make it to important life events due to traffic congestion or a road being closed due to deterioration.  It’s the same story that truckers experience every day. 

You can learn more about this campaign at www.roadtoabetterfuture.com where ATA and our partners explore the real costs of inaction: the time lost for commuters stuck in traffic; the money wasted in gas and vehicle damage from poor and traffic-packed roads; the environmental degradation from idling cars and trucks; and the economic decline that results from a weak infrastructure.

To drive home the costs to truckers nationwide, our campaign also lists the top 100 truck bottlenecks – the most congested freight corridors in the U.S. – and proposes a solution for fixing them.  

User fees have seen broad support in the past.  President Reagan twice signed an increase in the user fee, which was supported by Democrats and Republicans, organized labor and the business community, as the best, most effective – and most conservative - way to invest in roads and bridges.  We need the same vision, leadership and collaboration today.  We hope you’ll help us encourage our leaders in Washington to take action.  We should all be following Arkansas’s lead. 

Chris Spear is president and CEO of American Trucking Associations

Contact Us

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

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

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
You are here: Home Article Archive The Last Word