Analysts Warn of ‘Damaging Backlash’ If Congress Imposes Trucks-Only Mileage Tax
Washington D.C. – Transportation analysts testifying at a U.S. Senate committee hearing this week warned lawmakers that imposing a federal trucks-only mileage-based tax would set off a “damaging backlash.”
Right now on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are considering proposals to impose a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) tax on passenger vehicles and commercial motor vehicles as part of legislation to reauthorize funding for federal highway programs.
One proposal supported by a bi-partisan group of legislators calls for imposing a trucks-only tax.
The trucks-only tax has been studied by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
According to the CBO, a VMT tax on all commercial trucks with load ratings of over 10,000 pounds would raise $2.6 billion per penny of tax per vehicle-mile, while a narrower VMT tax limited to tractor-trailers (26,000+ pounds) would raise $1.6 billion per penny of tax per vehicle-mile.
During a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on Wednesday, numerous transportation researchers urged members against including a trucks-only VMT tax into the upcoming highway funding bill.
“I would like to caution very seriously singling out the trucking industry to be the place to start,” said Robert Pool, transportation director at the Reason Foundation. “The worst thing policy could do is to single them out… because that would create a backlash that I think could be very damaging.”
Dr. Patricia Hendren, executive director of the Eastern Transportation Coalition, and supporter of moving to a VMT tax for all vehicles, echoed Pool’s warning.
“As heavy users of our interstate transportation system, we really need to look at our trucking industry separately than our passenger vehicles,” she said. “I’m concerned that if we move forward with a user-based approach it does need to address all users versus singling out one of our users.”
Supporters of a trucks-only VMT tax often argue it would be simpler to implement and collect taxes from commercial trucks than from passenger vehicles.
Pool challenged those assertions.
“It’s really, as their findings have found, it’s more complex in a lot of ways than passenger cars,” he said referring to a recently released report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).
Proponents of a trucks-only tax also contend the trucking industry doesn’t pay its fair share relative to the damage heavy trucks cause to America’s roads and bridges.
According to ATRI though, the trucking industry contributes roughly 45% of net total tax revenues into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) when adding up tax receipts from federal diesel fuel purchases, the heavy vehicle use tax (HVUT), International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) taxes, and the 12% federal excise tax (FET) on purchases of new equipment.
Last month, the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) sent a letter to lawmakers calling the notion trucking is not paying its fair share “preposterous” and urging them to drop the trucks-only VMT tax idea.
“We are disappointed that this controversial and discriminatory proposal has resurfaced, as our industry has consistently supported increasing HTF revenue through equitable increases to existing user fees,” wrote Todd Spencer, OOIDA president and CEO. “The inclusion of such a divisive policy in the next surface transportation reauthorization would instantly eliminate our support for the bill and likely destroy any hope for its passage.”
This will be an issue to watch in the coming weeks and TransportationNation.com will be tracking it closely.