“No one knows America, like truckers know America.” Those were the words of President Donald Trump to leaders of America’s trucking industry that visited the White House last month to deliver support for many of the priorities of the new administration including health care reform, funding for new infrastructure and more.
President Trump understands that to grow our economy, we need to take care of the people that move America forward. Trucking is the backbone of the nation’s economy moving 70 percent of the nation’s freight and 56 percent of GDP. We are a $725 billion trucking industry comprised almost entirely of small businesses. We employ 1 in 16 people in the U.S. and in 29 states, driving a truck is the top job.
Like many Americans, we are disappointed that consensus could not be found to reform our health care system. Nevertheless, it remains a critical issue. As an older workforce where the median age is 49, quality health care coverage is important to our employees and their families. Every day we are faced with the burdens created by the Affordable Care Act. Our independent drivers have watched helplessly as their premiums exploded, doctors are switched, and insurance companies have folded. One of our small trucking businesses saw employee premiums increase by $300,000 last year after similar increases in prior years.
Many of our small- and medium-sized businesses couldn’t afford catastrophic coverage and offered scaled back plans for their employees, only to see their premiums skyrocket. One Wisconsin trucking company currently averages monthly premiums of $2300 and can no longer invest into their business: whether its new trucks, equipment or even new employees. Meanwhile, the CEOs of our larger companies have faced bureaucratic nightmares trying to navigate the compliance requirements that were created in the ACA mandates. We hope that the president and congress will revisit health care reform and roll back the mandates and administrative burdens, restore choice, and let private markets work.
Trucking leaders also discussed the need for a long-term infrastructure spending package with President Trump to address the country’s critical need for highway and bridge improvements. As an industry that pays half of all highway taxes, we need a modern transportation system to ensure America’s continuing competitiveness. ATA estimates find that 15,000 deaths and one million injuries can be prevented by highway safety improvements.
The American Transportation Research Institute’s recently released top freight bottlenecks report vividly illustrates the need to strengthen our nation’s roads and bridges. Interstate congestion costs the trucking industry nearly $50 billion each year and wastes more than 728 million driving hours. A motorist loses on average $523 annually in vehicle repair costs due to unmaintained roads. Our nation and economy depend on good, safe infrastructure and that now is the time to address those needs.
Like infrastructure, tax reform is also very important to us. More than 90 percent of our companies operate six or fewer trucks and like so many other small businesses we suffer from the most oppressive tax rates in the world. Many combined federal and state marginal tax rates have exceeded 50 percent and even more when payroll and other taxes are added in. Allowing small businesses to immediately expense their equipment would bring an end to the complex depreciation schedules that we currently face and reduce tax compliance costs. Relief is long overdue and we are encouraged that Congress and the president have prioritized major tax reform for the first time in three decades.
As President Trump noted, America’s trucking industry “carries anything and everything — the food that stocks our shelves, the fuel that runs our cars, and the steel that builds our cities.” We thank him for recognizing our sacrifices and our needs to continue keeping America moving forward.
Chris Spear is president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, the nation’s leading organization representing the interests of the trucking industry
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