In testimony before Congress last week, Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), called for the addition of a new 20 cent per gallon fee to be built into the price of transportation fuels collected at the terminal rack – an extra fuel tax to be phased in over four years with the monies dedicated solely to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for roadway expansion and upkeep needs.
“The fee will be indexed to both inflation and improvements in fuel efficiency, with a 5% annual cap,” Spear said in his remarks. “We estimate that the fee will generate nearly $340 billion over the first 10 years. It will cost the average passenger vehicle driver just over $100 per year.”
ATA dubbed this added fuel tax the “Build America Fund” or BAF and suggested it be connected to another new roadway construction effort it called the National Priorities Program or NPP – a program the trade group suggested would be funded with an annual allocation of $5 billion, plus an annual increase equivalent to the percentage increase in BAF revenue.
“Each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation would determine the location of the costliest highway bottlenecks in the nation and publish the list [and] states with identified bottlenecks could apply for project funding grants on a competitive basis,” Spear noted.
“Locations could appear on the list over multiple years until they are addressed [and] the funds remaining following the transfer to the HTF and the NPP would be placed into the Local Priorities Program (LPP),” he said.
Spear added that ATA believes both the BAF and NPP would give state and local transportation agencies the “long-term certainty” and “revenue stability” they need to maintain and begin to improve their surface transportation systems – especially as the HTF, the primary source of federal revenue for highway projects, is projected to run short of the funds by fiscal year 2021.
“While an average of approximately $40 billion per year is expected to be collected from highway users over the next decade, at least $60 billion will be required annually to prevent significant reductions in federal aid for critical projects and programs,” Spear said.
“It should be noted that a $60 billion annual average federal investment still falls well short of the resources necessary to provide the federal share of the investment needed to address the nation’s surface transportation safety, maintenance and capacity needs,” he added, pointing to American Society of Civil Engineers research that claims the U.S. spends less than half of what is necessary to address roadway infrastructure issues.
“As the investment gap continues to grow, so too will the number of deficient bridges, miles of roads in poor condition, number of highway bottlenecks and, most critically, the number of crashes and fatalities attributable to inadequate roadways,” Spear stressed. “Highway congestion also adds more than $63 billion to the cost of freight transportation each year. In 2015, truck drivers sat in traffic for nearly one billion hours, equivalent to more than 362,000 drivers sitting idle for a year.”