It is getting harder and harder these days to escape talk of budgets. The evening news barrages us with talk of deficits and the inability of our government to do what’s necessary to bring our budgets into balance.
Like many of you, it has been exceedingly difficult for me to manage the bottom line during this so-called Great Recession and the not-quick-enough recovery that we’re currently experiencing. As a small business owner, I was forced to make tough decisions in trying to increase revenue and cut spending where we could.
Our elected leaders are trying to do this as well, looking at items across the board to keep our country from drowning in red ink. Unfortunately for us in transportation, one of those items continues to be the selling off of our precious infrastructure.
Already this year we’ve seen proposals in the Senate to make it easier to privatize our infrastructure, and Ohio recently enacted a budget that envisions the possibility of a lease of the Ohio Turnpike.
These proposals come up at a time when there are reports that the foreign consortium that leased the Indiana Toll Road may default on the massive debt it took on to make the deal, leaving the future of that facility in some doubt.
You wonder when politicians will see these privatization schemes for what they are — privatization scams, a way for our leaders to duck the hard, but necessary, choice to raise the necessary revenue to fund our deficient infrastructure.
There have been more than a dozen reports from blue-ribbon commissions, think tanks and study groups that conclude we have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on improving our crumbling infrastructure.
However, some of the only bipartisanship in Washington these days appears to be in opposition to increasing the fuel tax, which we know is the easiest and most efficient way to raise the money necessary to fix our roads and bridges.
So by ruling out that option, an option American Trucking Associations supports, our lawmakers are left to “think outside of the box” at so-called “creative” solutions.
Even many of the solutions that don’t include turning over our highways to private companies still include tolls – something that we join NATSO in opposing.
Tolls raise funds inefficiently, siphoning off needed revenue for administrative costs, but more than that, they are a barrier to commerce. Even with new technology, tolling slows the movement of trucks, and of great concern to you and your fellow travel center and truckstop operators, discourage drivers from leaving the highway to find rest and refreshment.
We in the trucking industry know that those stops can be critical – allowing our drivers to comply with federal regulations, but more to the point, allowing them to keep our highways safe by remaining well-rested behind the wheel.
We at ATA were proud to stand with NATSO earlier this year as Jason’s Law was reintroduced and we appreciate the interest you have in providing safe parking for our drivers.
Even with that support, we still need Congress to come up with the money and put together a highway authorization that makes sense – one that provides adequate funding for our infrastructure and keeps the roads and bridges we the public have paid for in the public’s hands.
We can’t afford not to.
This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazine. Stop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.
The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. If you are a member and not receiving Stop Watch, submit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a member? Join today or submit a request to receive additional information.
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