Overdrive Magazine

April 2019

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28 | Overdrive | April 2019 U ncertainty about shoring up the bankrupt U.S. Highway Trust Fund to address the nation's crumbling transportation infrastructure has led some states to find new revenue sources, including tolls that target trucks. "Our predictions are com- ing true," says Darrin Roth, vice president of highway policy for the American Trucking Associations. "Even though about half of states have increased their own fuel taxes or registration fees, all they've done is made up somewhat for lost time. Many of them haven't increased those fees for decades, so they're just catching up." Since 2008, the Highway Trust Fund has needed more than $140 bil- lion in IOUs from the U.S. Treasury to stave off insolvency. The fund's revenue source – per-gallon taxes on gasoline and diesel, which haven't been increased since 1993 – has since been crippled by inflation and improvements in fuel-efficiency. Congress has let the issue flounder despite urgent cries from the busi- ness community and the public at large. It's also despite lawmakers and Presidents Trump and Obama crow- ing annually about the dire status of America's infrastructure and their intentions to address it. At least four states in the past 12 months have enacted or considered truck-specific toll plans. These pro- posals follow years of warnings from highway funding advocacy groups and trucking groups about high- way funding "devolution" — that is, highway funding rolling downhill to states and the likely expansion of tolled highway lanes that would come with it. Until recently, says Roth, truck tolling proposals popped up every two to three years. "Now we're see- ing something up every two to three months," he says. "I expect that trend to continue and to accelerate." Likewise, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association points to federal inaction as a key cause of the recent truck tolling plans. President Todd Spencer says there's been "a clear and distinct turn away from traditional methods for funding highways, and that move was to the idea of basically selling off our roads to be converted to toll roads." ATA and OOIDA endorse fuel tax increases to support highway proj- ects. They argue fuel taxes are more efficient in their collection and use of revenue and more equitable for users. "Congress has continued to kick the can down the road on creating sustainable road funding, and the result is states are getting backed into a corner," says Stephanie Kane, spokesperson for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates. The coalition represents dozens of companies and organizations, including OOIDA and ATA. A reluctance among Washington lawmakers to institute new taxes makes the prospects for a Highway Trust Fund fix appear bleak, casting increasing doubt about its future and its ability to pay for upkeep and expansions. This has left more states in pursuit of their own revenue sources, which include ramped-up tolling efforts. After decades of federal negligence, states are floating plans to add truck tolls to help pay for highway improvements, sounding alarms from the trucking industry. BY JAMES JAILLET STUCK WITH THE BILL

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