Congress eyes diesel tax hike

The American Trucking Associations is backing a bill that would establish a national freight planning process, financed through a 12-cent increase in diesel taxes and use of federal funds.

On Sept. 30, Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) introduced the Freight is the Future of Commerce in the United States Act, or the Freight FOCUS Act.

It would prioritize funding via a new assistant transportation secretary, who would lead a new Office of Freight Policy. H.R. 6291 would have public and private sector involvement in freight planning, use funding to alleviate highway choke points and provide money to mitigate the effect of goods movement on the environment and health.

It would create a Goods Movement Trust Fund for merit-based grants for transportation projects. This fund would require money from a specific mode be limited to projects benefiting that form of transportation. The private sector would have a say in funding through a new National Freight Advisory Committee.

The legislation would be financed by a diesel tax increase and a $3 billion annual transfer from the General Fund into the Goods Movement Trust Fund

The ATA said rather than try and tap the depleted Highway Trust Fund, additional user fees in the different transportation modes would provide much of the funding.

The bill’s diesel tax increase will be insufficient to address current surface transportation problems, it said. For this reason, the association is encouraging Congress to pass a similar hike in gas taxes to fund additional projects

The bill was referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, along with the Ways and Means and Rules committee.

On July 22 the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation Act was introduced in Congress. The FREIGHT Act, or S.3629, would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a National Freight Transportation Strategic Plan and create an Office of Freight Planning and Development.

Trucking is not mentioned in this bill, which focuses on rail, ports and intermodal freight. It was referred to a Senate committee and has two co-sponsors.