CHICAGO Nucor Corp. supports raising the user fee that provides revenue to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, Rob Roberson, materials and logistics manager for Nucor Steel Berkeley in South Carolina, told a U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on freight transportation.
"We rely on water, rail and truck transportation to move millions of tons of scrap and other raw materials to our steel mills and finished products to market," Roberson said Oct. 1. "Disruptions in the freight transportation system can have significant negative economic impacts on our business."
Several of Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucors steel mills are located on waterways, and some of them have more than 90 percent of their raw materials delivered via river, Roberson said, and Nucor subsidiary David J. Joseph Co. transports about 3,500 barges of scrap annually.
Frequent dredging is needed to maintain adequate drafts, he said. "Unfortunately, inadequate draft levels are becoming all too common. For every 1-inch decrease in draft, you lose 17 tons of cargo on a barge. This forces companies like ours to use more-costly alternatives."
Nucor is "encouraged" that Congress is advancing the Water Resources Development Act, particularly the section that dedicates more revenue in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for dredging, Roberson said. "We hope that Congress will also strengthen revenues for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to make necessary investments in this critical component of our U.S. supply chain by advancing the industry-supported user fee increase."
He also called for improvements to the countrys aging highways and bridges. "The gas tax is not providing adequate revenue to further this goal," Roberson said
Nucor also wants Congress to foster more competition for rail service in certain regions where shippers are "captive" to one railroad operator. Roberson said premium rail freight rates cannot be passed on to customers because "we compete in a steel market that is being flooded with illegally subsidized foreign products that are often already sold below cost." Keeping the U.S. steel industry and other businesses globally competitive "requires investment in this entire system."