The trucking industry is in dire need of new solutions to help reduce diesel fuel prices, according to ATA president & CEO Gov. Bill Graves, and a variety of steps must be taken to keep the industry rolling.
Graves has written five letters offering solutions to the fuel crisis to President George W. Bush; Samuel W. Bodman, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary; James Ray, Acting Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and John H. Hill and Nicole Nason, Administrators of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, respectively.
In these letters, Graves stressed the need for new strategies to help alleviate the problems trucking is facing and called upon each of the officials to effectively tap their resources.
“To be sure, many in the industry are making every effort to lower consumption, including lowering speeds and using auxiliary power units or similar equipment to reduce fuel consumption when the truck is idling,” Graves wrote. “Even with these efforts, it is easy to see why many trucking companies are reporting that higher fuel prices have greatly suppressed profits, if they are making a profit at all. We are not only concerned about fuel’s direct impacts on our industry, but also its effects on the nation’s economy, which is likely to be in a recession. The more consumers spend on fuel, the less they have to spend on other goods or services.”
To President Bush, Graves wrote that he must release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stimulate the economy.
“Any policies the Administration can implement to break the run-up in crude oil prices are needed. This would include releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I know that crude oil inventories are not the problem, but the oil market is no longer functioning on supply-and-demand fundamentals as many hedge funds drive up the price of crude oil based on speculation. We need something to break that chain, and a SPR release could do it.”
Graves also petitioned DOE’s Bodman to suspend the filling of the reserve. “At a minimum, we don’t believe the government should be buying oil during this time of record level prices,” he wrote. “In the longer run, we need to make sure that strategies are in place to ensure that fuel prices do not limit the long-term potential of the economy. We need to invest in new refining capacity and expand crude oil production, including environmentally sound exploration of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf.”
In his letter to Hill and Nason, Graves asked FMCSA and NHTSA to lower vehicle speeds as an effective way to reduce fuel use. The ATA submitted a petition to the group in October 2006 requesting newly manufactured trucks install a speed limiter that can be set no higher than 68 mph, he said.
In his letter to FHWA’s Ray, Graves asked that the group ensures that legislation passed in 2005 that gives a 400 lb. weight exemption for alternative power units (APUs) is enforced, as states are currently not required to grant the exemption, he said.
Graves stressed the need for an increased budget for the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership Program, which provides incentives for companies that are more efficient with shipping and freight operations, in his letter to Johnson. He also addressed the need for new refineries.“We all know that no new refineries have been constructed in our nation for over 30 years now,” Graves wrote. “This inactivity in additional capacity comes as no surprise. Hurdles that have been put in place at the federal, state and local levels have been set so high that many oil companies have given up on plans to pursue new refinery operations. It is our hope that the refinery trend over the last 30 years can be reversed in the short term.”