By David Tanner
Your association, OOIDA, spends countless hours sifting through mountains of information so you can get a handle on complex issues that dramatically affect your career. Part of the reason you belong to OOIDA is because you need savvy analysts to digest the details and deliver the lowdown.
We’d like to introduce you to a little document we like to call OOIDA Highway Funding Principles. Hey, take off the parka and hear us out.
If you don’t know what these principles are or why they are important, get acquainted. Think of this exercise as a primer for when you write your local newspaper or as a confidence builder for when you need to contact your lawmakers.
The OOIDA Board of Directors developed its first list of highway funding principles about five years ago, and the list continues to be a headliner item during Board meetings.
OOIDA Life Member Mark Elrod of Peru, IN, sits on that board. According to Elrod, every trucker could stand to brush up on the issues.
“We could all use some education in that aspect,” Elrod said, “especially when it comes to communicating with politicians.”
Elrod commends OOIDA’s government affairs staff for keeping the trucker’s voice alive on Capitol Hill, but says the staffers cannot do it alone.
“We’re up against some giants in Washington – Chamber of Commerce and ATA and some big money. We’re David against Goliath up there sometimes, but we’ve got some good people up there slinging the rocks. The more support we can provide for them, the better.”
OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce is among those who work hard to keep the list current. He started during an era in which the Bush administration sought to reduce the federal role in funding and maintaining transportation.
Think of the principles as a chance to push back – to stand up for things like good roads and strong bridges.
“We address everything from tolling to PPPs to truck-only lanes, to the ‘brownfield-greenfield’ argument,” Joyce said. If you don’t know what that is, “brownfield” refers to existing highway capacity and “greenfield” refers to new capacity.
“We provide a little bit of color to it as well by letting people know how much truckers are paying in taxes,” says Joyce.
Joyce encourages truckers to share the list of principles with their lawmakers. Here’s an example of something you could say:
“Did you know that trucks make up less than 3 percent of registered vehicles and cause less than 10 percent of the congestion but pay 36 percent of the money going into the Highway Trust Fund?”
The Highway Trust Fund, if you’re not halfway to Juneau by now, is the pot of money collected from fuel taxes, truck and tire taxes and other fees you pay to operate.
Joyce says the average politician is unaware of just how much truckers pay in taxes.
OOIDA Senior Member Terry Button of Rushville, NY, said having good talking points can make a difference in any conversation.
“Everybody takes it for granted that we’ve just got to pay,” Button said. “I don’t mind paying that tax every time I put a gallon of fuel in. But I want what I pay for.”
Button says there’s two ways to get a point across.
“You can scream and yell, or you can sit down and develop a relationship where you’re trustworthy and believable,” he said. “Not just to show what our industry wants, but to show what’s good for America.”
The voice of truckers is important because, without it, the other groups, lobbyists and special interests would get their way more often, said Joyce.
“The more focus we can get out there educating the lawmakers, the more influence we’ll have in our organization and a greater influence over the dollars being spent,” Joyce said. LL
OOIDA’s highway funding principles
The following is an abridged version of principles developed by the OOIDA Board:
Small-business trucking professionals know firsthand that America’s economic future relies on the existence of safe and efficient highways.
Truckers provide 36 percent of the federal Highway Trust Fund through taxes on diesel fuel, trucks, trailers and tires; the HVUT; tolls and other fees.
OOIDA encourages the government and elected officials to actively plan for the next 50 years of highway improvements and demands the responsible use of taxpayer dollars.
OOIDA encourages Congress and the DOT to rein in excessive spending on non-highway related projects; streamline environmental regulations; and fund transit and DOT agencies from alternate sources or the General Fund.
OOIDA remains committed to the fuel tax as the primary way to fund highways and recommends the next highway bill contain a provision requiring that highway users be reimbursed for any state and federal fuel taxes they pay for miles driven on toll roads. Paying both tolls and taxes is double taxation.
OOIDA believes the private sector has a role in managing current assets without control of the assets being relinquished.
OOIDA adamantly opposes the sale or lease of existing roads and efforts to convert non-tolled roads into toll facilities.
OOIDA will not categorically oppose a “greenfield project,” provided it is transparent, involves input from highway users, adds to existing capacity, relieves congestion, provides choice for users, and removes fees once a project is paid for. Public dollars should not be used to fund private toll roads.
Any effort to entice truckers to support truck-only lanes as a trade-off for heavier and/or longer trucks will be met with strong opposition.