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10% Cut in Truck Traffic Called ‘Almost Ludicrous’
Monday, 20 July 2009 00:00

The idea of removing 10% of truck traffic from the nation’s highways by 2020 to reduce carbon emissions is “almost ludicrous,” Ray Kuntz, former chairman of American Trucking Associations, told a Senate committee last week.

“The reality is that if intermodal rail tonnage were to double by the year 2020, market share of intermodal would be 1.8%,” said Kuntz, chairman of Watkins and Shepard Trucking, Helena, Mont. “Trucking would still be 71%.”

Kuntz was referring to a Senate bill, introduced in May by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), that calls for transferring 10% of freight off U.S. roadways to non-highway or multi-modal services by 2020.

He testified at a July 14 hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is taking the lead in crafting a Senate version of an energy and climate change bill.

The House bill, passed on June 26, contains a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions for mostly stationary sources such as electrical and coal plants.

Kuntz said trucking is concerned the cap-and-trade provisions being considered by the Senate committee would raise the price of fuel because oil refineries would pass on their cost of complying with the proposed greenhouse gas limitations contained in the House legislation.

Kuntz said the goal of the trucking industry is to reduce fuel consumption.

“But here’s our challenge: We don’t build engines and we don’t refine fuel,” Kuntz told the committee. “But we do pay the price of any increased fuel costs due to climate change legislation.”

Kuntz urged the committee to look at improvements to all modes of transportation, rather than randomly attempting to divert truck traffic off highways.

“It’s very important that the committee stays on the realities and looks at opportunities to reduce the costs of freight and not increase our cost of operation,” Kuntz said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood agreed that reducing carbon emissions of the transportation sector—which accounts for about one-third of all greenhouse gas pollution—must include solutions other than those aimed at fuel economy and tailpipe standards.

Even if passenger cars were able to eventually meet a 55-miles-a-gallon fuel efficiency standard, “pollution would only decline moderately,” LaHood told the committee.

Solutions also must include reducing the amount of vehicle miles traveled by cars, trucks and buses and increasing transportation options ranging from affordable housing to light rail and bicycle paths, LaHood said.

Transport Topics, 7/20/2009