Talking about infrastructure spending has become a common way to drum up bipartisan support in Washington, D.C. The latest example was President Trump at the State of the Union, who called on Congress to come up with a $1.5 trillion bill.
Dave Manning, chairman of American Trucking Associations, attended the speech, and said he is optimistic lawmakers will be more willing to take action this year following passage of the tax reform law.
The tax cuts “have generated a push in the economy,” and that means more freight. That requires addressing traffic bottlenecks, said Manning, who is president of TCW Inc. in Nashville, TN.
Manning spoke by telephone with Fleet Owner the morning after attending the State of the Union. He received a ticket from his congressman, Rep. Jim Cooper.
“It was an honor to be there,” said Manning. He recounted how he tried to soak up the history, and was encouraged to see some bipartisan applause following mentions of infrastructure funding and investing in workforce development programs.
Manning noted more than 30 states in recent years have raised fuel taxes, and polling shows “no backlash” against those lawmakers. A central feature of ATA’s “Build America Fund” plan calls for a boost in “a federal fuel usage fee built into the price of wholesale transportation fuels collected at the terminal rack, phased in at a nickel per year over four years.”
Overall, ATA estimates its overall plan would generate $340 billion in new revenue over the first 10 years. The fuel usage fee is the “most productive way to get something done,” Manning said. Federal fuel taxes have not been raised since 1993, and there still appears to be little support for the idea in 2018.
A leaked memo on infrastructure funding suggested there would be a reliance on interstate tolling. Manning said ATA opposes tolls on existing highways, but is open to the idea when adding new capacity.
He also expressed skepticism of public-private partnerships, saying, “pulling them off is whole lot different than talking about it.”