Since its inception over sixty years ago, the U.S. interstate highway system and its 47,856 miles of road have linked the nation together. Using this system, the American transportation industry – and America itself – has thrived. Trucks travel hundreds of thousands of miles each year, transporting around 70% of all domestic cargo in the U.S. In other words, most products in stores, and in your house, depended directly on trucking to get there. The nation’s extreme reliance on trucking highlights the necessity of the interstate system, and why the deterioration of our highways is such a complex and important issue.
In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave U.S. infrastructure a grade of D+, citing mostly below standard conditions, with large portions demonstrating significant deterioration and many elements approaching the end of their service life. In describing the risk of infrastructure failure, the ASCE states “Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future.”
While the price of improving our crumbling infrastructure stands at a staggering $4.6 trillion, the cost of significant setbacks to the transportation of goods across the U.S. could be even greater. So it’s a tremendously important issue, but how do we solve it? Well, of course, the biggest issue is getting politicians to decide where the funding will come from.
According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, although infrastructure improvement provides common ground as a bipartisan priority, “It’s contentious because of a rift over funding – partly over sheer dollar amounts, but also over the proper government role. While [President] Trump pitches reliance on state and local governments, aided by private-sector partnerships, Democrats are pushing a much stronger role for federal funding.”
The President has also said that infrastructure funding could be raised by increasing the gas tax, suggesting that the idea came from truckers themselves during a meeting about the industry. Regarding the potential tax increase, President Trump stated “truckers have said that they want me to do something, as long as that money is earmarked to highways.”
However, higher prices for fuel – including diesel – would put a greater share of the burden on truckers and owner/operators compared to the average driver. But do truckers deserve to shoulder so much of the cost? While trucks do make up 1-in-4 vehicles in congested areas, overall they only account for 4.3% of all highway vehicles. And already truckers pay billions of dollars in extra highway and industry taxes, accounting for 11% of the entire Federal Highway Trust Fund’s total revenue. How much more should be asked of truckers?
No one has all the answers, but we do want to know what you think!! Let us know in the comments below – is raising taxes on fuel a good way to raise funding for infrastructure, or is that unfair to the truckers upon whom the nation relies??