As to highway funding, Lofgren emphasized that U.S. global competiveness “depends on a robust freight system driven by the trucking industry,” and said that trucking “recognizes we have to pay our fair share.” He also said that, given the ever-increasing shortfall of the Highway Trust Fund, he would support direct federal funding from other sources.

But the freight rail representative on the panel, BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matthew Rose, was quick to note a “caveat” to the rail industry’s support: maintaining “the modal balance of equity” between highways and rail.

“We pay for nearly 100% of our own infrastructure in the railroad industry. And what you should want, for the next ton of freight that’s moved in this country, is that somehow it gets off the highway and gets put to the railroad industry because of our efficiency, our environmental impact, and because then you don’t have to pay for that next road paving on the highway system” Rose said. “As long as trucks continue to pay for the use of the highway network, it’s great. If we lose the economic tilt, if we move away from the user-pay system and pay with general revenues, you’ll be subsidizing railroad’s largest competitor—and our largest customer—and you’ll get more and more trucks on the highway network. I don’t think that’s what anybody in this town wants.”

Questioned about the impact on fleet operations of state labor laws, Lofgren explained that rest break laws such as those in California have evolved from agriculture worker protections. But, as applied to truck drivers who need to pull off the road, such work rules pose “a safety hazard” and “create issues” for interstate carriers.

“We want our drivers to take breaks, to do things safely. We encourage them to do that—when it’s safe, at appropriate times,” Lofgren said. “Those regulations put us at odds and it frankly makes it difficult. It’s about recognizing how [trucking] works and making sure the requirements align with that.”

As for the impact of a potential Trump Administration trade war, Schneider has “significant operations” that move freight into and out of Mexico, and any NAFTA treaty revisions “will not be helpful.”

“A lot of our customers have significant manufacturing facilities [in Mexico],” Lofgren said. “I’m pretty sure it’s not going to go zero, but there’s no doubt that if the path that we’re on continues, we’ll see reduction in the amount of business that we’re going to conduct between the U.S. and Mexico.”