Trucking groups oppose climate change bill

The American Trucking Associations said yesterday, May 12, it cannot support the American Power Act, the climate change bill introduced by U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman.

Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, said the bill will raise the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel without significantly reducing the output of carbon dioxide by the trucking industry, which is a nondiscretionary user of diesel fuel.

The Senate bill would require refiners to purchase billions of dollars worth of carbon allowances that correspond to the carbon footprint of the fuels they sell. ATA said it believes the refiners then will pass this cost on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices.

“While others might object to our characterization, the climate bill clearly imposes a tax on transportation fuels and reallocates revenue from that tax for nontransportation purposes,” Graves said. Only a small portion of the tax would go to the Highway Trust Fund for improvements and repairs to the nation’s highway infrastructure, he said.

Meanwhile, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said the Kerry-Lieberman bill will have a tough time getting passed during an election year.

In addition, OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said the bill ultimately will impose a tax on users of fossil fuels, such as truckers. “They said that the Congressional Budget Office would score this as not being a fuel tax, but about putting a price on carbon,” Joyce said. “Lieberman said this bill puts a price on carbon, and that means a fuel-tax is coming.”

The bill will markedly increase the cost of fuel, but the trucking industry is not a discretionary user of fuel,” Graves said. “While the trucking industry has reduced its fuel consumption and carbon output through the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership Program and other efforts, the bulk of trucking companies’ fuel use is for their economically vital role of distributing freight whenever and wherever manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers demand.”

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In addition, forthcoming federal regulations required under existing law will mandate vehicle modifications that, while increasing the cost of trucks, will improve fuel efficiency and further reduce carbon emissions, Graves said. “The economically essential nature of trucking means that unless you shrink the economy and reduce the amount of freight transported, which would have disastrous results, you are not going to curb carbon output by trucking under this bill,” he said.

In 2008, ATA proposed ways to reduce carbon emissions, including reducing speed limits, governing truck speeds, reducing idling, increasing fuel efficiency, reducing highway congestion, allowing more productive truck combinations and creating national fuel economy standards for trucks. ATA said it supports dedicating transportation tax revenue to the Highway Trust Fund in order to repair bridges and highways and eliminate congestion points, which would further reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

The bill offers incentives to trucking companies for converting from diesel trucks to natural gas trucks. ATA, which supports development of natural gas and other alternative fuels, said these incentives will be attractive to only a small number of companies with dedicated short-distance operations. ATA also said it believes these incentives are insufficient to ensure the buildout of a competitive natural gas refueling infrastructure.