The American Trucking Associations told a House subcommittee that the use of tolls to finance infrastructure construction and maintenance was inefficient, unsafe and damaging to the trucking industry.
“While the trucking industry is willing to pay its fair share for infrastructure improvement, we believe that tolls are not the right solution, and in fact can be very harmful to our industry, our customers and ultimately, to consumers,” YRC Worldwide Inc. CEO Darren Hawkins told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways & Transit on behalf of ATA.
In his testimony, Hawkins cited inefficiencies in toll collection, traffic diversion and misdirection of toll funds as significant problems with tolling when compared to other financing methods.
“Tolling has very high collection costs relative to other highway user fees,” he said. “While the cost of collection has come down with the introduction of transponders, costs can still exceed 10 percent. On some major toll facilities, these costs are much higher. On the Ohio Turnpike, for example, 19 cents out of every dollar is spent collecting tolls, while the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s collection costs exceed 20 percent. Contrast this with the 0.2 percent cost of collecting federal fuel taxes.
“Clearly, the waste that goes into collecting a toll is simply unacceptable when far more efficient alternatives are available. Our user fees should be used to build roads, not toll road bureaucracies,” he said.
Hawkins also warned that because of federal funding shortfalls, states are abusing tolls to fund other projects at the expense of tollpayers, particularly the trucking industry.
“Federal law allows states to shift excess toll revenue to any Title 23 eligible purpose. This results in toll payers bankrolling projects that they may not benefit from,” he said. “In addition, because the vast majority of roads can’t support tolls, a small minority of motorists can be saddled with the subsidization of a state’s surface transportation system, regardless of whether the toll payers benefit.”
Because tolls are only even a potential solution for a handful of projects, Hawkins urged Congress to do more to fund infrastructure so states aren’t forced to look to tolling or other riskier financing schemes.
“It is important to note that tolls will not solve the most important challenge facing this subcommittee – the impending bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund. Failure to address the shortfall will continue to induce states to consider bad options like tolls,” he said. “ATA and nearly every organization that cares about surface transportation efficiency has proposed an increase in the fuel tax to address these needs, and we urge your support.”
To read Hawkins’ full testimony click here.