November 16, 2015 4:00 AM, EST

Letter: Highway Trust Fund Needs Robust Fix

This Letter to the Editor appears in the Nov. 16 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Highway Trust Fund Needs Robust Fix

President Obama recently signed into law a patchwork bill extending funding for the Highway Trust Fund. Good start, but how about a robust, permanent fix? Such a longer-term solution would boost the economy, and repairing our aging highways will create jobs and fund health care for the skilled labor trades.

Whether you lean red or blue, there are important implications that, when addressed, will have everyone breathing a lot easier and with a few extra dollars in their pockets. If these reasons aren’t good enough, here are two more:

First, let’s talk air pollution. No one likes it, and everyone wants it to stop. The government thinks taxing polluters is the answer, and the trucking industry definitely is a group that is taxed.

But there is this fact: Even the most economical truck, Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration “Future Truck” (misnamed because 75% of it is available today) won’t make a dent in reducing carbon emissions, even though it has increased fuel efficiency 115%, which is well above the U.S. Department of Energy’s challenge of 50%. Why? Because just 10 minutes of idling in traffic negates every bit of this truck’s fuel efficiency.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration reports that, in the top 75 urban areas, motorists spend an average of 51 hours per year stuck in traffic. That report is from 2001, so you know the number is higher today. For truckers, that number is significantly higher. Every citizen who likes clean air should care.

So, what’s the real pollution culprit? Too many vehicles and not enough road.

While the president and Congress haggle over entitlement spending, our economy’s interstate backbone — and a key defense strategy — is contributing to two of our nation’s biggest challenges: air quality and climate change.

But let’s not forget about the impact to our economy. When shipping is inefficient, costs go up. That means retail prices go up. Add to that the fact that, in 2017, truckers will only be allowed to drive 11 hours a day. Can we afford any of those hours idling in traffic?

It’s not bad enough that no other industry is limited, by government, on how much or how little it can use its assets. Then trucking is hit again by a government that inadequately funds road repairs, adding to big-time trouble.

And that trouble starts in Washington. It’s pink-slip time. Let’s start over.

Criss Wilson

Vice President, Operations

Barton Logistics

Medina, Texas