March 2018

Overdrive Magazine | Trucking Business News & Owner Operator Info

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Voices 4 | Overdrive | March 2018 The Trump administra- tion's infrastructure bill priorities were unveiled in February. As expected, giv- en the administration's private-funding-growth ideas around infrastructure financing, resting in the pre- ferred draft bill is a nugget of a bugaboo for longtime truckers: tolling. If Congress were to take it up, it would remove the ban on tolling existing interstate lanes (ex- cept in some special cases). There's plenty oppo- sition to such a measure among truckers and the motoring public. "Casi- nos, Powerball, tolls, all because no one knows how to balance the budget anymore," says William J. Wood, commenting at Over- driveOnline.com. "Taxes were supposed to cover our government needs to run this country. Where will we draw the line?" Most truckers hope the line will separate current fuels-taxes funding of roads from "flexibility" for states to privatize or otherwise toll the existing interstate system. Tolling would pro- vide potential cash cows for investors over longer terms — and states themselves in the short term, given most examples of toll-road con- version to private operators has involved long-term leases worth millions. Two-thirds of readers answered a categorical "no" to the question of whether to allow tolling on the interstate highway system beyond what is cur- rently allowed on grandfa- thered roads. Mandated e-logs were bad enough by themselves, noted Samuel DeWalt. He believes they also easily could represent a "Pando- ra's box" of sorts, to "open the door to monitoring your personal drive time to work [toward] tolls on new and existing roads. … Push back. Let the politicians know that since they ignore their constituents for corpo- rations, we will forget them for re-election." For all of President Trump's gusto at reversing the policies of his prede- cessor, when it comes to road financing, the current administration is singing a somewhat familiar tune. Obama's U.S. Department of Transportation also wanted to do away with the prohibition on tolls on existing interstates, regular readers may recall. The effort was unsuccessful. The opposition was as robust then as it appears now. During that time, the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates was formed, claiming among its mem- bers several carriers as well as large organizations such as Natso (represent- ing truck stop operators), the American Trucking Associations and the Own- er-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Upon news of the leaked outline of the infrastructure bill, ATFI issued a state- ment that in part echoed the principal thoughts of many a highway hauler. "Tolls are simply a new tax," ATFI said. "They are wildly inefficient, sacrificing Toll plan lacks support Yes 4% Only on new routes 16% Only on expansion lanes or routes 13% TOLLS ON THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM: SHOULD THEY BE ALLOWED? No 67% Just a third of readers favored any liberalization whatsoever in the ability of government to toll interstate routes. Tony Besase, com- menting at OverdriveOnline.com, summed up opposition to the idea, noting tolls are "nothing but a rip-off. We pay enough fuel tax." OverdriveOnline.com poll OOIDA, ATA and Natso oppose Trump's proposal to allow inter- state tolls.

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