Letters to the Editor: Border Program, Gas Tax Reality, Unpaid Miles, Fuel Prices

These letters appear in the May 12 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Border Pilot Program

I agree with Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters: Congress should continue the cross-border program between the United States and Mexico. The program promotes free trade with our North American Free Trade Agreement partner and gives a huge incentive for U.S.-based businesses to expand into the untapped Mexican truck industry.

The United States has spent millions of dollars to ensure security, and this program not only allows us to test that security, it puts it to good use.

Congress and other groups worry about unsafe and illegal trucks entering the United States. Safety and security checks at the border will make the border-crossing checkpoints more effective than most state-run scale houses. Mexico has agreed to adhere to the driver standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation — the same rules U.S. drivers break on a daily basis when driving vehicles despite out-of-service issues, expired physical exams or invalid driver’s licenses.

Congress wants to stop a program before the data can be compiled to show its results. We should allow the program to run for at least one year to see its effect on the United States.

The program is only controversial because U.S. citizens fear they will lose something to the Mexican drivers. But we have to ask what we are going to lose:

Jobs? No, we have a shortage of good, qualified drivers in the United States. Industry? If anything, opening the border tells companies there is no need to move out of the United States to cut transportation time and costs. Now, you can move your product with one carrier directly from your facility in the United States to your customer in Mexico and vice versa — without transloading, warehousing or delay costs.

Border control? Again, no — not with the growing use of security at the borders to deal with illegal immigrants. We will still maintain safe and controlled borders.

What are the possible gains from the cross-border program?

First, we gain access to hundreds of additional businesses and industries that may not have been able to expand into the United States. These businesses now can take advantage of the reduced costs involved in moving across the border.

Second, we gain access to a new driver pool — one that is eager to work.

Most important, we move another step closer to a totally free trade relationship with our neighbor.

I agree there must be strict rules and even stricter penalties for companies and drivers — both ours and Mexico’s — that fail to follow the guidelines set forth by the U.S. and Mexican governments. Likewise, we should not encourage illegal immigration, unregulated transportation of goods, illegal drivers or illegal equipment on the road.

The rules should be clear and to the point and allow for the safety of everyone on U.S. and Mexican highways. The policies should encourage free trade without the loss of security or safety. The rules should address not only participating companies and drivers but also possible penalties for those that try to retaliate or impede the forward progress of free trade.

America prides itself on being a free nation with freedom to expand and grow as we see fit. Wouldn’t it be nice to spread that philosophy to another country — and possibly the world — opening the doors to free trade across the globe?

Jason Fessel
School of Business
Indiana University Southeast
New Albany, Ind.

Gasoline Tax Reality

Reports of record oil company profits and foreign oil suppliers’ lack of concern with the effect of soaring gas prices on our economy have provoked anger and frustration among many Americans. But a recommendation unlikely to help them is the proposal by two presidential candidates to suspend the federal gasoline tax for the summer.

The federal gas tax, which represents about 5% of the current price of regular gas, has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. The gas tax is the one part of the price per gallon that is invested here at home to benefit the traveling public by funding road construction and maintenance and transit.

If the gas tax suspension did go into effect, experts estimate that the typical motorist would save $28 for the summer — less than the cost of half a tank of gas.

What the tax suspension would cost the Federal Highway Trust Fund, however, is nearly $9 billion in revenue. That cost could be offset by transfers from the General Fund, but that would drive up the deficit by an additional $9 billion.

Many people ask whether jeopardizing future funding for vital road and transit maintenance is worth the meager savings motorists might receive if the oil companies decide to pass on the savings through lower prices at the pump.

Perhaps the only upside to this debate is the attention it has drawn to the Highway Trust Fund, which has sustained the nation’s highways since enactment of the Interstate Highway Program in 1956.

The federal gas tax goes directly into the Highway Trust Fund, supporting highway and transit systems that move millions of people and tons of cargo safely every day. The Highway Trust Fund also supports thousands of high-paying jobs right here at home, and next year, Congress must act to keep the program working for America.

John Horsley
Executive Director
American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials
Washington, D.C.

Unpaid Miles

Your front-page article on unpaid miles in the April 14 issue was interesting, and every truck owner or company president should read it. (Click here for previous Premium Content story.)

On a trip to Concord, N.H., from Chicago, Rand McNally software’s miles equal 943, ALK Technologies’ PC Short’s miles total 939 and ALK Practical’s miles are 1,040.

Rand McNally and PC Short use routes through New York and Vermont on secondary twisting roads along which no one in his right mind would send a 53-foot trailer. The safest and fastest route is the Practical route, which uses the interstates.

Not only does the carrier get the short end of the stick, but the driver does as well, since most major shippers are on Rand or PC Short. If the big guys such as Schneider and Hunt would insist on using Practical’s miles, the rest of the industry would follow.

If anyone has checked earnings reports lately, the industry could use the help.

Norman Seeger
Seeger Associates LLC
Rupert, Vt.

Fuel Prices

What are they trying to do — run the small trucking companies out of business? Get oil prices under control, and do something about it now. The oil companies are getting richer and richer, while the little people are going broke. Wake up, United States of America!

Elsie Bangert
B C Trucking LLC
La Plata, Mo.

Our country faces many emergencies it reacts to, from war to hurricanes. In times of emergency, much of the normal political dancing and correctness is set aside while we tend to the crisis at hand. I’m not well-schooled on executive powers, but I would identify today’s fuel cost issue as an emergency worthy of action, not talk.

Committee meetings and hearings won’t substitute for action. The president’s approval rating is in the tank anyway, so why not just “do the right thing” and take quick and decisive action to fix the problem?

Admittedly, it won’t be a single fix, but neither will it be a weak-kneed reaction to environmental activists while airlines, trucking firms, individual pocketbooks and our economy in general go down the tubes.

Tom Doty
Glory Transportation
Fayetteville, Ark.

Last week, my dad made $1,600 — but he spent $1,800 dollars on fuel. Something needs to change, or before long, not one truck driver will be able to keep his or her trucks on the road.

The price of fuel is killing every truck driver, and it’s sad when you hear a driver say, “I am just going to keep working until the bank comes and gets my truck.”

The drivers who are saying that are guys who have been doing this for years. My father has been driving for about 25 years now, and this is the worst it has ever been.

It is really sad to hear drivers talking about which things they can allow to go back to the bank, while they try to make it day to day, because they are paying $4.50 a gallon for diesel. Most truck drivers can’t fill up their trucks anymore because that would cost somewhere around $3,000, if not more.

Something needs to happen — and fast. Truckers almost would be better off just to quit, let their trucks sit, go on welfare — and then let the government figure out a way to get the steel from Point A to Point B.

The government could stop this problem if it wanted to, but it enjoys making money off the working man while its people just sit in an office all day.

What has happened to America?

Samantha Jenkins
Truck Driver’s Daughter
Kaplan Trucking
Franklin Furnace, Ohio