Trucking Executive Cautions Senate on the Cost of Tolls

NFI Chief Finance Officer Steve Grabell warned the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee that rapidly increasing toll rates, as well as, the spread of tolls across the country, are a threat to consumers and the trucking industry.

Grabell cautioned, “I am deeply concerned about the significant increases in toll costs that have been imposed on NFI and other trucking companies over the past few years.  These added costs have forced us to re-route our trucks to less efficient, secondary roads, which raises our costs and increases congestion and safety concerns.

“In addition to the impact increased tolls have on logistics providers and added costs associated with toll increases, filter down to the consumer and affect business decisions regarding hiring and facility locations and expansion,” Grabell added, testifying on behalf of the American Trucing Association.

Grabell told the Committee’s Chairman, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, and other members that in 2011 alone, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey carrier paid $14 million in tolls.

“Where toll facilities serve interstate traffic, we believe that federal oversight and possible intervention in determining rates is necessary and appropriate,” Grabell said, campaigning for the Commuter Protection Act.

The Commuter Protection Act would restore the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ability to determine whether toll hikes are reasonable and give the Department the authority to prescribe more reasonable tolls.

On August 19, 2011, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved an increase in toll hikes that would raise the current toll for trucks from $40 to $125 by 2015.

Grabell said the planned increase is 163%, “nearly three times greater than the country’s next highest bridge toll,” adding that it, “appears the vast majority of the revenue will be used to benefit seaports and airports and to complete the reconstruction of offices at the World Trade Center building.”

“Congress has an obligation under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to ensure that interstate travelers, who may not be represented when toll rate setting decisions are made, have a voice in the process,” said Grabell, adding that the ATA believes that the Commuter Protection Act is “a significant step toward enduring better oversight of tolling authorities that serve interstate traffic.”