If you eat anything, build anything, or purchase anything in Alaska, chances are it came on a truck. In fact, 94 percent of all Alaska communities rely on trucks to move critical goods. It’s hard to overstate how important the trucking industry is to Alaska.
Unlike many employed Alaskans, we truckers don’t work in an office — we work on the road. The highways are our workplaces, and sometimes they even feel like home. We don’t mind, because we chose this line of work, and it is immensely satisfying to literally keep Alaska moving.
It is this love of the job that compels the Alaska Trucking Association to speak out against Ballot Measure 1. It may seem odd for a trucking group to oppose a ballot initiative that supposedly focuses on fish habitat, but the facts of the matter make Ballot Measure 1 too dangerous for us to ignore.
One in 19 Alaska jobs is tied to the trucking industry. That’s a lot of truckers, and a lot of trucking families making their living by moving goods. Our concern with Ballot Measure 1 is that it will unnecessarily apply the brakes to our economy, leading to fewer jobs of all kinds, but especially in the trucking industry. This is because the ballot measure places enormous burdens on project developers, even for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and culverts.
Truckers drive a lot of roads in Alaska, moving more than 17 million tons of goods every day and traversing roads in winter conditions. We care about our highways and byways being maintained safely, efficiently and predictably. In July, the state Department of Transportation stated that Ballot Measure 1 will lead to road construction delays, possibly making them not only more expensive to build, but less safe. While testifying in front of the legislature, a representative from the DOT said, “the roads, the bridges, everything that we build, are designed to maintain safety for the traveling public. And so there’s some concern that this (ballot initiative) may trump some of those safety concerns.”
The road is our workplace. The road is our home. Workplace safety is our No. 1 priority. For those of us who work on the state’s roads, that kind of safety risk in just flat out unacceptable.
Truckers also provide revenue to government. In 2016, truckers paid more than $53 million in state and federal taxes. If Ballot Measure 1 were to pass, we will start to see our economy grind along in low gear, resulting in less need for trucking. If we drive less, we make less revenue and pay less in taxes, a total lose-lose for government and us.
More than anything, we are proud Alaskans. We get plenty of “windshield time” to see firsthand the beauty of our unique state. We fish on our days off and raise our families here. We care about the future of this state, the future of our jobs and, most importantly, the safety of our drivers. On Nov. 6, please join Alaska’s truckers in voting no on Ballot Measure 1 to protect our jobs and our safety.
• Aves Thompson is the executive director of the Alaska Trucking Association, a 200-member company trade association whose purpose is to foster and promote the trucking industry in Alaska. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.