The chief financial officer for Cherry Hill, NJ-based National Freight Inc. (NFI) warned a Senate committee that rapidly increasing and excessive highway tolls are a threat to both consumers and the trucking industry and called for Congressional oversight of tolling authorities that serve interstate traffic.

Stating that his trucking company paid $14 million in tolls in 2011 alone, NFI’s Steve Grabell pointed to the planned increases in tolls on the bridges between New York and New Jersey that raise tolls 163% by 2015 as an example of the impact of excessive tolls and a toll authority that requires Congressional intervention.

Grabell was testifying on behalf of the American Trucking Assns. before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security on Wednesday.

The trucking industry is “very concerned about the irresponsible behavior of some tolling authorities which, along with complicit state officials, seemingly view toll revenue as a slush fund for investment in all manner of projects, programs and activities which have nothing to do with maintaining their highways, bridges and tunnels,” Grabell told the committee. “We believe that these toll facilities must be subject to federal oversight, and the statutory ‘just and reasonable’ toll rate standard that has been in effect for nearly a century must be applied to toll facilities that serve interstate traffic.”

Federal enforcement authority over tolling agencies, “whether through judicial review, executive branch oversight, or a combination of the two, must be restored,” Grabell told the committee. “Absent such action, consumers and businesses will be compromised by unfair costs and a highway system that is less efficient and less safe.”