IMAGE: JIM ALLEN / FREIGHTWAVES
By TCA Vice President of Government Affairs Dave Heller & TCA Manager of Government Affairs Kathryn Sanner
February saw the start of Congress’ work on infrastructure reform. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has held two hearings on the subject so far, with more to come. The Senate Commerce Committee has held two transportation-focused hearings as well. Other relevant committees, including the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, among others, are also planning hearings in the coming weeks with hopes of developing a comprehensive infrastructure proposal by the end of spring.
With this aggressive timeline and the magnitude of work that must be done to come up with a bipartisan proposal, it is easy to understand why many doubt Congress’ ability to pass this legislation in 2019. Any bill must also account for the needs of many different infrastructure stakeholders and be amenable to President Trump. But the trucking industry and the motoring public cannot afford for Congress to wait several more years to act. The federal government cannot afford it either as the Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money in 2021. We need solutions now so that our crumbling roads and bridges can receive the upgrades they desperately need.
As with any headline-making piece of legislation, various groups are now trying to add their mostly non-essential pet projects into the package. It is frustrating to see superfluous policy objectives detract from more meaningful debate about the real issues.
In the case of infrastructure, we cannot allow for movement on a comprehensive bill to be weighed down by discussions that will not achieve the overarching goal of obtaining better roads for the movement of freight across this country. Discussions about changing truck size and weight limits are tangential, at best, to the infrastructure debate, yet proponents are grasping for any angle to link the two issues. This is a distraction and a detraction from successful infrastructure reform.
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has consistently opposed any increase in truck size and weight. Research shows that new configurations, specifically Twin 33-foot trailers, would inflict an additional estimated cost of $5.5-$10.5 billion annually to our already strained roads and bridges. Should Congress really be spending its precious time and energy debating whether to mandate something that would hurt our highway system as part of an infrastructure package meant to improve it? Not to mention the business, safety, and labor repercussions of adopting these longer and heavier vehicles.
We urge Congress and our industry partners to focus on the real goal – a better highway system for truckload carriers, the entire trucking industry, and the motoring public to keep our people and our economy moving.