by Avery Vise, FleetOwner

The American Trucking Associations at a leadership meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., endorsed several revenue options to fund transportation infrastructure investments. Although ATA previously said that the best way to fund infrastructure is to increase the existing fuel tax, the trade group has acknowledged that the current political environment makes an increased tax unlikely.

The current highway authorization ends Sept. 30, but even more urgent is the situation with the highway trust fund. The Dept. of Transportation estimates that the trust fund will run out of cash in August.

The menu of options ATA officially supports are:

  • Indexing of the fuel tax based on price, CPI [consumer price index] or the estimated impact of improved fuel efficiency
  • Proceeds from repatriation of overseas capital
  • Issuance of Treasury bonds subsidized with revenue from indexing the fuel tax
  • A new annual “highway access fee” for all motorists
  • Use of royalties from new oil and gas leases
  • A per-barrel tax on imported oil and domestic crude production
  • A transfer from the U.S. general fund to ensure short-term highway trust fund stability – an option that ATA termed “a last resort.”
Noticeably absent from the list are some frequently discussed options that the trucking industry has long opposed, including tolling, privatization and a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax to replace the fuel tax.

ATA several months ago set up a task force to evaluate financing alternatives, said ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, president and CEO of Charleston, S.C.-based Bulldog Hiway Express. “Today, this association reaffirms our commitment to a strong, well-funded federal highway program.”

The task force began with a list of more than 30 potential funding sources, said ATA Vice Chairman Pat Thomas, who is a vice president of UPS Inc., and vice chairman of the funding task force. “What we’ve narrowed that down to is a list of options that could provide the resources needed to address the critical highway and bridge upgrades we need.”

“While we continue to believe that the fuel tax is the fairest, most efficient method of funding our highway system, we also recognize the political difficulties of getting an increase through Congress,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “The work of this task force lays out what is acceptable to the trucking industry, and what should be acceptable to our political leaders to address the highway trust fund crisis."

The Obama administration has proposed a four-year transportation bill, while the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a six-year bill.