OOIDA voices concerns about Obama Administration highway reauthorization proposal

April 30, 2014

An initial examination of the proposal from the Department of Transportation finds at least two provisions that Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) believes could potentially have a positive impact on small-business truckers.  However, the proposal's lack of a long-term funding solution to improving highways and the embracing of nation-wide tolling of the interstate highway system are significant and fundamental flaws that will lead to negative consequences for all highway users and taxpayers.

"In their effort to move forward on this critical issue, we appreciate the Administration's sense of urgency to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out," said OOIDA Executive Vice-President Todd Spencer. "But we also would advise Congress to refrain from advancing negative provisions in the proposal, including those that would create a patchwork of state-controlled toll roads."

The proposal would open the door to a localized interstate system by allowing states to apply tolls to existing toll-free roads. It would also allow collected funds to be used for transportation costs other than highways and bridges, such as mass transit.

"Our interstate highways are the foundation of trucking and our nation's interconnected modern economy," said Spencer. "Truckers in states with 'grandfathered' tolling authorities already know the cost of tolls to their business and personal incomes, as well as to an efficient system of goods movement."

The association commends the administration for including in the bill provisions to address the issue of truck driver compensation and detention time, as well as eliminating the self-insurance option for motor carriers. This option allows the biggest and most profitable motor carriers to avoid buying insurance on the open market where prices are based upon risk, unlike the majority of the trucking industry which is made up of small businesses.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said "Congress should follow through with the administration's recognition of the connection between highway safety and driver pay by making sure that all truck drivers are compensated for all of their on-duty time."

The issue of detention has gained greater attention in Washington due to the efforts of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro and lawmakers like Rep Peter DeFazio.

"OOIDA looks forward to working with the DOT and the Senate and House Transportation Committees as they work to develop legislation that can be enacted in time to address the needs of the Highway Trust Fund," said Johnston. "A priority should be to hold fast to today's restrictions on tolling and the need to maximize the direction of the dollars paid by truckers and highway users into roads and bridges."

Johnston says that OOIDA sees the reauthorization as the best opportunity to advance much-needed reforms to FMCSA's regulations, as well as to move forward with long-overdue training standards for long-haul truckers.