Trucking groups seek help in limiting interstate tolls

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Two major industry groups, one representing owner-operators and one representing carriers, are urging members to let Congress know that any new tolls on America’s interstates should be strictly limited.

The current version of the highway bill that will be debated in the U.S. House beginning the week of March 7 would give states the right to impose tolls on existing interstate lanes.

Both the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations support an amendment that would allow only temporary interstate tolls, and those only on newly constructed lanes that drivers could choose to avoid.

The amendment is proposed by U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., and it echoes the Freeing Alternatives for Speedy Transportation (FAST) Act that he introduced in 2004.

Kennedy wants no tolls on existing interstate lanes, but would allow states to impose tolls on new lanes built alongside the old ones. By deciding which lanes to drive in, drivers would choose whether to pay tolls. The tolls would be collected by wireless transmitters, so that drivers would not have to stop, and would be collected only until the new lanes were paid for.

Kennedy’s proposal would decrease congestion in all lanes, both toll lanes and free lanes, said Kennedy spokeswoman Anne Mason.

“Obviously, we want no tolls of any kind on any interstate highway, but some highly influential members of Congress are bound and determined to get tolling programs into this bill,” OOIDA stated on its website. “Congressman Kennedy’s FAST fees program is an innovative solution to highway funding problems, and it strictly limits tolling.”

According to ATA, imposing tolls on existing lanes of the Interstate Highway System would impede its ability to move the nation’s freight safely and efficiently. ATA says that the trucking industry’s average profit margin is between 2 cents and 4 cents per mile and that any new tolls would erase that profit.

The ATA also believes the tolls would lead to more dangerously crowded two-lane roads. The ATA cited Virginia state transportation research that found that tolls encourage large numbers of vehicles to move off the highway to two-lanes and residential streets to avoid paying tolls. The ATA sees this as a safety problem because federal interstates are four times safer than alternate routes.

Both OOIDA and ATA have posted sample messages in support of the Kennedy Amendment. U.S. House members’ contact information is available at http://www.house.gov/.

For more information on the groups’ views of the Kennedy Amendment, call OOIDA at (800) 444-5791 or ATA’s Alliance for Trucking Advocacy at (703) 838-1759.