The ATA (American Trucking Association) has recently announced its priorities for the current Congressional term, the issues it plans to lobby hard for. At the top of the list are the ELD (Electronic Logging Device) mandate and the Highway Trust Fund.
Other want-list items include the creation of a drug and alcohol test clearing house, to make it easier for companies to find out if prospective employees have substance use records, drug testing using hair, instead of, or in addition to urine, fixing the CSA (Comprehensive Safety Accountability) program, and addressing the HOS (Hours of Service) restart rule.
ATA wants to be clear that its concern over drug testing results is not about keeping people from working, but rather about making sure that people with a history of substance use are clean and sober when they return to work. Whether drug and alcohol testing accomplishes that aim is unclear; a test can show whether a person has used a substance recently (or any time within the past three months, with hair testing), but not whether they did so excessively or behind the wheel of a vehicle.
The Highway Trust Fund is of special concern, since this is where most of the money for road and bridge construction and repair comes from. The Fund receives its money principally through the fuel tax, which has not kept up with inflation since no elected official wants to go on the record for raising the tax. As a result, the Fund is very close to running out of money and the nation’s transportation infrastructure is already badly—even dangerously—in need of work.
An alternate source of funds is tolls, but the ATA does not support the imposition of tolls on roads and bridges that currently lack them. It claims that tolls are an inefficient method of revenue generation, since only about 70 cents on the dollar of toll money actually makes it to the Fund, as opposed to 98 cents per dollar for the fuel tax.
Another alternative is devolution, or making the states wholly responsible for transportation funding. ATA does not support devolution, regarding transportation as a responsibility of the Federal government, just like defense. It is true that interstate commerce depends on an interstate transportation network. If some states had a good system and others did not, the results would be ineffective for the country as a whole.
The Highway Trust Fund is an issue famous for being put off to the next legislative session, again because no one wishes to explain a tax increase to constituents. ATA, however, is hopeful that by pushing hard, they may be able to get the Fund funded at last.