Potholes and politicians

Aside from those truckers who might’ve gotten caught up in some unusual May blizzards, by the time this issue of American Trucker is out, most of us should be feeling pretty good about the beginning of summer.

Granted, summer’s not typically the best season for freight; however, if you’re still hauling after the Great Recession, you’ve got a good perspective on what a slow freight environment really feels like. But let’s not talk about the weather, or even the economy—not much we can do about either.

Rather, let’s talk about a weather- and economy-related road issue: potholes. And it’s not that there’s much exciting to say about them, though they do have some symbolic currency right now. Potholes, you see, have become a popular metaphor representing the need for the U.S. of A to wake up and realize that Eisenhower’s Interstates aren’t going to get the job done as we move further into the 21st century.

If Congress can’t even agree on how to fix what we’ve got, what chance do we have to compete with growing super-economies such as those of China, especially when competitors are greatly outspending the U.S. on infrastructure projects? Of course, those screaming the loudest about the need to spend more on America’s roads and bridges are, no surprise, the road and bridge builders and the labor unions that work for them.

So some of these dire warnings need to be taken with several cubic tons of salt. Finding long-term funding for highways has also been among the top priorities of the American Trucking Assns. since I started writing about the business nearly 10 years ago. Thing is, not much has changed. Fuel taxes, especially: Clinton (Bill) was in the White House the last time there was an increase, and the Highway Trust Fund can’t keep up with rising construction costs.

But elected officials in Washington won’t touch a fuel tax increase with a 10-ft. tanker stick. That means Congress again will kick the can down the road (the second most popular metaphor of the highway funding debate) and figure out a way to pay for what’s been promised for another few months until the money’s gone. What that means for truckers is more potholes, of course—real ones. Thump.


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