TCA president touts fuel tax as fix for America’s roadway infrastructure

Political gridlock is a virtual constant in Washington. Some view that as a defense against hasty or imprudent action. Do not count Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) President John Lyboldt among that number. He is tired of the political tug-of-war when it comes to America’s roads.

On a FreightWavesTV episode of “Fuller Speed Ahead,” Lyboldt explained to FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller his solution to get Washington to break out its hard hats and fix the country’s transportation infrastructure: an increased federal fuel tax.

As TCA president, Lyboldt represents truckload drivers, a widely forgotten segment he called the “silent majority” of trucking. He explained that truckload represents close to 78% of all U.S. freight moved by truck thanks to its nearly 3.5 million drivers.

The 81-year-old trade association represents dry van, refrigerated, flatbed and intermodal container carriers operating in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, according to its website.

Lyboldt recently presented to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao his idea for an increased fuel tax to fund federal infrastructure projects.

“How many industries say to you, ‘We’re willing to pay more in fuel?” he asked McConnell, who responded that industries usually ask to pay less.

A higher tax may not be popular, but Lybolt argues it is worth it for the problems it would solve. He listed vehicle damage costs, loss of productivity and rising congestion as reasons to improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure, which according to Lyboldt is shamefully ranked only 29th in the world.

“If you look at all the reasons why drivers can’t drive, infrastructure is a big contributor to that,” he said.

But it’s not just bridges, roads and tunnels that he wants to improve. Lyboldt argued for improving broadband internet’s intangible transportation infrastructure as well.

Fuller added that trucks are far more connected to the internet than ever before, with advanced transparency and visibility systems, safety technology, and the emergence of smart-tech. 

Fuller expressed interest in updating broadband infrastructure. His hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has internet speeds over one gigabyte, giving city residents some of the fastest internet speeds in the world.

He credited the city’s economic development to those capabilities — capabilities he labeled a major factor in establishing FreightWaves in Chattanooga. Fuller believes Chattanooga’s tech success can be replicated across the country if cities are willing to invest in the necessary tech infrastructure.

Lyboldt’s advocacy for improved transportation infrastructure centers first around safety. He warns that not addressing these issues could bring about deadly consequences.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority because we’re sharing the highway,” Lyboldt said. “It’s our office and we have to respect the fact that there are citizens and cars on the roads.”

Lyboldt is a strong proponent for embracing technology and equipment that make the roadways safer. What he hopes to see become a reality is the ability for cars and trucks to “talk” to one another. That’s technologically possible, he said, and implementing it isn’t “rocket science.”

“The investment in that little technology with cars and trucks ‘talking’ could be a big deal,” Lyboldt said.