The American Trucking Associations (ATA) said Friday it will oppose a bill introduced in the Senate the previous day that would establish legislative and regulatory mechanisms governing freight operations across the United States, saying the bill does not go far enough to address the complex needs of all freight interests.
ATA, which represents 37,000 members, said the bill—known as the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment and Guidance to Help Transportation Act of 2010 (the FREIGHT Act)—offers very little in the way of funding to improve the condition of the nation's highways. In a statement, ATA said that highways, "which carry more than 68 percent of the nation's freight, would not be eligible for funding beyond very limited connectors to freight terminals."
ATA said the industry needs a "comprehensive approach to improving freight transportation for all modes that will move our economy forward. This bill does not meet that need."
The group said Congress should instead focus on a multi-year reauthorization of the nation's highway programs. The most recent multi-year highway reauthorization expired Sept. 30. Infrastructure programs have been funded since then through a series of temporary continuing resolutions.
To keep the programs going, the highway trust fund, which finances their operations mostly through fuel taxes, has required periodic, multi-billion dollar infusions of capital through the general treasury.
ATA said in its statement that funding for highway programs is "on the verge of collapse" and that the legislation introduced July 22 "does not remedy this growing crisis."
The bill was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and was co-sponsored by Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both Democrats from the state of Washington. The measure directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop a "National Freight Strategic Plan" that would serve as a roadmap for future infrastructure investments dedicated to the movement of goods. The bill also calls for the creation within DOT of an Office of Freight Planning and Development, to be led by an assistant secretary for freight planning and development.
In addition, the measure includes a National Freight Infrastructure Grants initiative, a permanent program that will award funds to freight projects based on merit and after a competitive bidding process.