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Posted at 9:36 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

GAO: Taxpayers pay for trucking

By Luke Rosiak

Moving freight via truck shifts far more of the costs onto taxpayers than does other modes of shipping, according to an analysis by the government's financial watchdog.

By investing in certain forms of infrastructure, the government essentially makes that form cheaper, thereby encouraging its use. But a smart investment, and the wisest use of taxpayer dollars, would encourage use of the most efficient mode.

"If government policy gives one mode a cost advantage over another, by, for example, not
recouping all the costs of that mode's use of infrastructure, then shipping prices and customers' use of freight modes can be distorted, reducing the overall efficiency of the nation's economy," the Government Accountability Office said.

The GAO's analysis of data across several government agencies found that costs associated with trucking that were not borne by the companies actually doing the shipping were "at least 6 times greater than rail costs and at least 9 times greater than waterways costs per million ton miles of freight transport. Most of these costs were external costs imposed on society."

In addition to monetary subsidies, those costs include air pollution, accidents and congestion, all of which are more significant with trucking than with rail or water transport.

By Luke Rosiak  | March 1, 2011; 9:36 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation News, Transportation Politics  
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This report only says what some of us have known for years: the Federal Govt. subsidizes the trucking industry by providing taxpayer funded roads while the most efficient ground transportation (rail) is totally privately financed and all of their property is taxed by every jurisdiction it passes through.

Posted by: kjclark1963 | March 1, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse


Seems that unions and their buddies the democrats are ripping off taxpayers at about every level imaginable.

Posted by: penniless_taxpayer | March 1, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Water and Rail transportation together could probably not even handle all the transporation done by trucking. Further trucks can and often do go into areas neither of those do.

Rails certainly cause their own trafic problems.

Posted by: win1 | March 1, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

The report may be true, but it is too narrow in scope. If all long haul freight went by rail, think of the millions of jobs that would be lost.
* Truck Drivers and their assistants
* Jobs at Truck Stops
* Jobs making Tractors and trailers
* Jobs making tires
* Jobs making diesel
* Truck Mechanics
* Highway and bridge construction jobs
* Jobs in the hospitality industry
* Jobs in truck driving schools
The list could go on and on. Instead of a 9% unemployment rate we would have more that 15% unemployment.

Posted by: bhammert11 | March 1, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

This article is a red herring. Everything you buy comes by truck at some point in the logistics chain. Do you want a train pulling up to every store in the mall?

Penniless_taxpayer: Your name should be Clueless_taxpayer. The unions have nothing to do with this. It is the trucking companies which benefit from any "subsudies" obtained.

Finally, The mode of transport depends on the commodity being shipped. Coal, for instance, has no shelf life and must ship in very large quantities which railroads are uniquely set up to handle. Produce, on the other hand, must move rapidly to preserve quality. Trucks do that best.

There are taxes and fees imposed on trucks by state and federal governments to offset some costs.

As usual, right-wingers are taking biased reporting and blaming the Dems for a system that has been in place since trucking has been around.

There is no national transportation policy put in place by either party. So, how can the Dems be responsible?

Posted by: nakedsailor | March 1, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

My response to penniless_taxpayer | March 1, 2011 11:04 AM <TEAMSTERS(A UNION)...DEMOCRATS


Seems that the teaparty and their buddies the republicans are ripping off taxpayers at about every level imaginable

Posted by: thetruth34 | March 1, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

This GAO could be a red herring. This no coherent transportation policy in the U.S. Thus, politicians have a system that is easily manipulated to suit the prevailing winds. When the trans-continental railroad was installed, there were subsidies, but rail operations (profits) were private. The interstate highway system was subsidized, but there is not a private operator. The roads are maintained with tax revenues. Some states contribute more than others to road maintenance, and this is where politics creeps into the system. But without a meaningful transportation policy, there is a small role for government "influence", and that role is manipulated by senators. Remember Sen Ted directing federal money to the "bridge to nowhere"?

Transportation, Energy, and Enviro systems are inter-related. Our free market obsessions allow these systems to be unmanaged. Of course, the problem is when government (money) is used to prop up a system, it is no longer a self-sustaining system. This is where politics creeps into a system, and it becomes corrupted.

Posted by: rmorris391 | March 1, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

If all long haul freight went by rail, think of the jobs that would be created.
* Train Engineers and Conductors
* Jobs at Railyards
* Jobs making Engines
* Jobs making Steel Rails
* Jobs making diesel
* Engine Mechanics
* Railbed and bridge construction jobs
* Jobs in the hospitality industry
* Jobs in train engineering schools
The list could go on and on

...Stuff still has to get moved. There'll be jobs in both industries. And if there are fewer jobs required in the long run (and there may not be), then it's probably cheaper to have used that transportation method. And, of course, there's no way you can completely eliminate all trucking jobs anyway.

Posted by: Chris737 | March 1, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

There would be even more jobs if we moved everything on horseback.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | March 2, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

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