Thursday, May 13, 2010

All Freight And Transport Groups Concerned For The Future

Governments Under Fire on Both Sides of the Atlantic
Shipping News Feature

US – UK – It is the responsibility of those associations who represent the interests of the shipping industry to pressure Governments when they see problems arising for their members. This past week has seen a plethora of comments from such groups in the light of recent events. In the UK we have seen pleas from both major road haulage representatives, the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association, and from the British International Freight Association for the newly elected coalition government to ensure the needs and aspirations of their members are recognised.

Yesterday saw a new bill introduced in the US by Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, together with Lindsey Graham to reduce climate change and this has produced harsh criticism from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) who tell us they cannot back the proposed legislation despite sympathising with its intent and the belief that it is supported by President Obama.

The ATA say the Senate bill would require refiners to purchase billions of dollars worth of carbon allowances that correspond to the carbon footprint of the fuels they sell. The refiners will then pass this cost on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices. As such, the Senate bill operates as a hidden multi-billion-dollar tax.

“While others might object to our characterization, the climate bill clearly imposes a tax on transportation fuels and reallocates revenue from that tax for non-transportation purposes,” Graves said. Only a small portion of the tax would go to the Highway Trust Fund for much-needed improvements and repairs to our nation’s highway infrastructure.

“The bill will markedly increase the cost of fuel, but the trucking industry is not a ‘discretionary’ user of fuel,” Graves said. “While the trucking industry has reduced its fuel consumption and carbon output through the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership Program and other efforts, the bulk of trucking companies’ fuel use is for their economically vital role of distributing freight whenever and wherever manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers demand.”

In addition, forthcoming federal regulations required under existing law will mandate vehicle modifications that, while increasing the cost of trucks, will improve fuel efficiency and further reduce carbon emissions.

“The economically essential nature of trucking means that unless you shrink the economy and reduce the amount of freight transported, which would have disastrous results, you are not going to curb carbon output by trucking under this bill,” Graves said. In 2008 the ATA proposed ways to reduce carbon emissions: reducing speed limits, governing truck speeds, reducing idling, increasing fuel efficiency, reducing highway congestion, allowing more productive truck combinations and creating national fuel economy standards for trucks.

"The ATA supports dedicating transportation tax revenue to the Highway Trust Fund in order to repair bridges and highways and eliminate congestion points, which would further reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

“Part of our concern is that with this cap and tax bill, trucking companies are being asked to pay for the reduction of carbon output three times over,” President and CEO Graves said. “The first payment will take the form of equipment cost increases for large truck fuel efficiency regulations referred to earlier. The second will be an increase in excise fees we pay into the Highway Trust Fund as the cost of trucks and tires rise under this legislation. And the third will be the enormous hidden fuel taxes that result from the Kerry-Lieberman bill.”

The bill offers incentives to trucking companies for converting from diesel trucks to natural gas trucks. While ATA supports development of natural gas and other alternative fuels, these incentives will be attractive to only a small number of companies with dedicated, short-distance operations. ATA also notes that these incentives are insufficient to ensure the build-out of a competitive natural gas refuelling infrastructure.