Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, wants to see President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal paid for with an increase in the federal gas tax.
“The fuel tax is the most efficient and fair way to fund highways,” Spear said. “For anyone who would suggest that this ‘sticks it to taxpayers,’ here’s the kicker. Taxpayers are already paying dearly for the government’s inaction on fixing our nation’s highways.”
Congested roads or those in poor condition cost $1,483 annually per average U.S. motorist, he said. The cost includes the additional vehicle operating costs as a result of driving on roads in disrepair. “Additionally, neglect of our highway infrastructure costs lives. These costs could go down exponentially with modest investment in infrastructure improvement.”
Since 2006, the ATA has asked Congress at least 19 times to raise the federal fuel tax to inflation. “For decades we have relied on the Highway Trust Fund — primarily funded by the federal fuel tax that we all pay at the pump when we fill up our tanks — to help repair and maintain our nation’s roads and bridges,” he said. “But the Trust Fund is on fumes, and the government has had to resort to general fund transfers to try to keep pace with maintenance.”
While he agrees highway users should pay their fair share, Spear said the trucking industry shouldn’t be responsible for all highway maintenance costs. Heat, rain, snow and ice are responsible for about one-third of pavement damage, according to the Federal Highway Administration. “Since 2008, when general fund transfers began, around 80% of federal Highway Trust Fund dollars have come directly from user fees,” Spear said. “Trucks account for 45% of federal highway user-fee revenues paid. Yet trucks nationally amount to just 9% of vehicle miles traveled and represent just 4% of all registered vehicles.”
In Arkansas, 37.8% of spending to build state and local roads comes from tolls, user fees and user taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. The state that spends the most on road construction using money from tolls, user fees and user taxes is Hawaii at 76.3%, followed by Delaware (69.1%), New York (68.5%) and Florida (67.8%).