Senate adds $11 billion to highway bill; fight for surcharge not over yet

| 5/10/2005

The U.S. Senate risked a presidential veto on May 9 by adding $11 billion to the highway bill. Earlier this year, President Bush threatened to veto any bill that went over the $284 billion measure passed by the House in March.

The additional money includes provisions to prevent fuel tax evasion and to move more money from the general treasury fund to the highway fund.

Meanwhile, two provisions that would directly affect members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are still up in the air.

Rod Nofziger, OOIDA government relations representative, said that the association is “still working and exploring options in the Senate” to get the mandatory fuel surcharge legislation introduced, in spite of some tough opposition.

“Some of the larger trucking companies are securing the services of some pretty high-priced lobbyists in town to oppose the legislation,” he said. “They have a vested interest in keeping small-business truckers at a competitive disadvantage.”

Another portion of the highway bill of concern to OOIDA members is the Hutchinson-Nelson amendment, which would prevent tolls from being imposed on existing interstate highways.

Nofziger said insiders expect that amendment to be introduced for a vote by May 11.

In the meantime, OOIDA is still urging its members to fax and call – writing may not be fast enough – their U.S. senators and urge them to include the mandatory fuel surcharge language from the House version of the highway bill in the Senate’s version.

The language in the House bill – HR3 at Section 4139 – requires all motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders running truckload freight to implement fuel surcharges and pass on 100 percent of those charges to the person who actually pays for the fuel.

If truckers are uncertain who their senators are, they can contact OOIDA’s Membership Department, and they will look up the information. The toll-free OOIDA number is 1-800-444-5791.

Truckers can also call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, give the operator their ZIP code and be directly connected to their senator’s office.

- By Terry Scruton, senior writer