It’s time to put American dollars back into American roads.
"One of our great material blessings is the outstanding network of roads and highways that spreads across this vast continent. Freedom of travel and the romance of the road are vital parts of our heritage, and they helped to make America great. Four million miles of streets and roads make it possible for the average citizen to drive to virtually every corner of our country -- to enjoy America in all its beauty and variety. They also form a vital commercial artery unequaled anywhere else in the world."
- President Ronald Reagan
America’s highway system was once the envy of the world. Led by the vision of President Dwight Eisenhower, together we built a vast and modern network of roads and bridges that connected the country, expanded interstate commerce and powered our economic engine through the second half of the 20th century. By the end of the Cold War, the United States had arrived as the world’s unrivaled superpower, and this marvel of American ingenuity had—in the words of Ronald Reagan—truly made the average American driver "king of the road."
How times have changed. Since the turn of the century, our infrastructure has been in a state of steady and managed decline. While the U.S. Constitution entrusts the Congress with maintaining our national road and bridge network, leaders in Washington have failed to uphold this responsibility for decades, opting time and time again to kick the can down the road and pass the buck.
Make no mistake: When Washington fails to properly fund national infrastructure, it’s the motoring public who pays the price. In 2019, the average American spent 99 hours stuck in traffic, costing them $1,377 in wasted gas, lost time and vehicle maintenance. Today, our degraded roads and bridges are slowing the economic recovery, draining motorists’ valuable time and hard-earned income, and—worst of all—burying our children and grandchildren in mountains of debt as we become increasingly dependent on borrowing from overseas to pay for the things we need here at home.
No one sees these consequences more clearly than America’s truckers. Our industry loses $73.5 billion every year to congestion on the nation’s highway system, totaling 1.2 billion hours of lost productivity – the equivalent to 425,533 truck drivers sitting idle for a year. That hits consumers in the form of higher shipping costs and delayed deliveries. It also harms our environment with 67.3 million metric tons of excess carbon dioxide emissions being emitted into the atmosphere—and trucks account for only four percent of vehicles on the road.
President Reagan understood infrastructure’s value isn’t measured in asphalt, concrete and steel—it’s measured in long-term growth and prosperity. Infrastructure is the underlying foundation of an economy that, when properly maintained, opens up the arteries of commerce. Investing in this cherished national asset is key to realizing America’s greatness, potential and destiny. And only the federal government is in the position and has the resources to get the job done.
Starved of federal funding, many states are doing their best to pick up the pieces and make ends meet. In my home state of Louisiana, I commend Governor Bel Edwards and his administration for making infrastructure a top priority, investing more than $3.6 billion toward 1,452 infrastructure projects, totaling nearly 5,000 miles, and doing so in a fiscally responsible manner. Even so, the state still faces a project backlog of $14.6 billion. Unless Congress can get its act together, projects like these all across the country will continue to be put on hold at motoring public’s expense.
Improving our nation's infrastructure is critical to America’s 3.6 million truck drivers. Every day, they must traverse our country’s sinking roads and sagging bridges in order to meet the demands of consumers and provide for our recovering economy. Truckers don’t outsource our responsibilities, and we’re asking Washington to stop outsourcing theirs to future generations and foreign countries.
No more delays. No more borrowed cash from China. Pass reform and pay for American infrastructure now.
Randy Guillot is Chairman of the American Trucking Associations and President of Triple G Express and Southeastern Motor Freight in New Orleans, Louisiana.