Tolling amendment added to highway bill; fuel surcharge still up in air

| 5/11/2005

The Senate approved the Hutchinson-Nelson Amendment to the highway bill on May 10, paving the way for the prevention of tolls on existing Interstate highways.

The amendment modifies a pilot pilot program created in 1998 that allows up to three states to toll existing interstate highways. The program has yet to be used by any state except Virginia. Because Virginia had already begun the program, the amendment would not apply to that state.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the addition of the amendment is a small victory, but there are still hurdles to clear for both it and mandatory fuel surcharge legislation, which has yet to be introduced in the Senate’s version of the highway bill.

“The house (version) still has wide open provisions in it for tolling on interstate highways,” Spencer said. “So obviously truckers still want to be conveying their thoughts on the need for fuel surcharge legislation and also their thoughts on the toll road provisions to lawmakers both in the Senate and the House.”

Rod Nofziger, government relations representative for OOIDA, said that the fuel surcharge could still make it into the final version of the Senate’s bill.

“We’re still exploring opportunities to get it done in the Senate,” he said.

OOIDA is urging its members to fax and call – letters may not make it soon 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