Improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure must be a national priority that deserves urgent attention. Capacity constraints, structurally deficient bridges, deteriorating roads and locks and dams that are long past their expected useful life require the necessary investment to efficiently move the country’s freight now and into the future.
NCFC strongly urges Congress to establish proactive transportation policies that foster investment to improve our nation’s aging infrastructure. Additionally, we support:
- Maintaining the agricultural hours of service exemption
- Passing long overdue trucking productivity improvements, including increased allowable weights for hauling agricultural commodities
- The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
- Improvements in rail capacity, competition, service and accessibility in rural America
- Measures that increase U.S. port efficiencies and prevent port disruptions
Congress passed a five-year highway reauthorization bill in December 2015. Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) provides for $305 billion in spending, and maintains the federal government's current spending level of about $50 billion per year for transportation projects, adjusted for inflation. However, in future reauthorizations, Congress will still need to address the approximately $16 billion per year shortfall in revenues generated from the federal gas tax.
America’s inland waterways and ports long have provided U.S. farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses with a strong comparative advantage, enhancing our ability to efficiently and competitively serve domestic and global markets, as well as to secure essential crop inputs for production of grains, oilseeds and other agricultural commodities. However, the inland waterways system now risks becoming a potential detriment rather than a comparative strength. To address inland waterways infrastructure issues, Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in December 2016, and intends to move future WRDA legislation on a biannual basis.
Meanwhile, comprehensive rail reform legislation has long been needed to address many of the concerns of rail shippers, including competition, service and capacity issues. NCFC supports legislative rail provisions that would take modest steps to contribute to a better balance between shipper and carrier interests in rail policy deliberations at the Surface Transportation Board and make the agency more accountable, transparent and effective. Thus, NCFC supported the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 808), which Congress passed in December 2015. The bill makes important reforms to better equip the STB to handle today’s freight rail challenges, such as giving the STB investigatory authority, creating a voluntary arbitration system, and requiring the Board to maintain a simplified and more efficient rate review mechanism when a full “stand-alone cost” review is too burdensome. Furthermore, S. 808 calls on the rail industry to invest appropriate resources to maintain rail service levels to prevent the types of service breakdowns such as were experienced in 2013 and 2014.