Do truckers pay enough for highways? White House suggests not

|February 27, 2018

A report issued last week by the White House reiterates the Trump Administration’s stance that tolling should be a prime mechanism for boosting highway funding. The report also says that the administration doesn’t think trucking pays enough in taxes to offset “the negative externalities [trucks] generate” relative to highway conditions, congestion and “accident risk.”

The annual Economic Report of the President, which is written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, takes aim at gasoline and diesel taxes, which have been the primary funding source for the U.S. Highway Trust Fund since the 1950s. The report says that more fuel efficient vehicles “pay less than the marginal costs generated by their use of roads in terms of wear and tear, congestion and other external costs.” Fuel taxes also create a funding divide between rural roadways and more crowded urban areas, the report claims.

“Furthermore,” the report says, “evidence suggests that heavy trucks in particular do not currently faces taxes and charges that are aligned with the negative externalities they generate, which include pavement damage, traffic congestion, accident risk and emissions.”

Infrastructure fixes running out of gas

We can’t expect tomorrow’s dwindling fossil-fuel-powered vehicles to adequately fund already under-funded highways while the e-powered elite rides free.

Trying to generate more revenue from tolls, the administration asserts, would “counteract” the deficiencies it says exist with the fuel tax.

Since his 2016 campaign, Trump has signaled his intent to try to use private financing, such as tolling, to generate funding for U.S. road and bridge projects. This month, the Trump Administration released an outline for its infrastructure plan, which calls for leaning on tolls and funding from states and localities — rather than federal spending — to bolster highway funding. Trump’s plan also would repeal the current ban on Interstate tolling.

Trucking groups have sharply rebuked the president’s plan for an increase in tolling. The American Trucking Associations, which put forth a bulletin in January lobbying Congress to raise the per-gallon gas and diesel taxes to stabilize U.S. funding for roads and bridges, says tolling is “a road to nowhere.” ATA also noted then that trucking pays 45 percent, via diesel taxes, of the HTF’s annual revenue.

“Study after study shows the shortfalls of tolling and the unintended consequences that tolls impose on motorists and surrounding communities,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear in January.

ATA has called for a the per-mile gallon on gasoline and diesel taxes to be increased 20 cents — 5 cents a year over the course of four years — to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. Gas and diesel taxes were last increased in 1993. These flat rates, 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon for diesel, have become more ineffective due to inflation and more fuel efficient vehicles, which have crimped the Highway Trust Fund’s revenue stream.

More tolls or no tolls? Two-thirds of readers say no

Just a third of readers favored any liberalization whatsoever in the ability of government to toll interstate routes, whether current or new routes or expansion …

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association last month also pressed for an increase in fuel taxes. “The heart of it is a fuel tax with revenues collected going to roads and bridges. It’s simple, efficient and it serves the very real needs of our country and its people,” said Todd Spencer, acting president of OOIDA. “If elected officials think a fuel tax increase would be unpopular, wait until Americans encounter more and higher tolling.”

The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates calls tolls “wildly inefficient.”

“In addition to the diversion onto secondary roads which causes congestion and public safety issues, tolls will do unimaginable harm to businesses, as shipping and manufacturing prices skyrocket to account for these new costs,” the group said in a statement earlier this month.

California nears plan to charge drivers by the mile

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

The California Legislature approved a bill to change how the state raises revenue for transportation work.State senators voted 23-11 to sign off on changes to a bill that would set up a task force to develop a voluntary program to test a new way to get money from highway users.   SB1077 now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.   Assembly lawmakers already approved it on a 46-26 vote.  

Specifically, the bill would authorize a pilot program in the state to assess the practicality of taxing truckers and other drivers based on vehicle miles traveled in the state. The VMT tax could replace the state’s fuel tax as people are driving vehicles that get better mileage.  Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, says the excise tax is “not a long-term viable funding solution.”   He describes his bill as “a critical first step toward California considering a mileage-based fee” as an alternative to the excise tax on fuels.  Oregon and Washington are testing similar programs.

DeSaulnier has said his proposed pilot program is a reasonable approach to address the impending fiscal cliff for transportation funding.  “We have to look at these kinds of things as Oregon and Washington have in anticipation of this cliff we’re about to go off,” DeSaulnier told Senate lawmakers prior to a floor vote.  The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on the record as opposing the VMT tax.   The Association sent communication to California lawmakers conveying the concerns of professional truckers.  OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek told lawmakers the Association supports investments into transportation infrastructure.  “However, if additional revenue is needed, increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable and efficient option, so long as the generated revenue is used for its intended purpose,” he said.

Fuel taxes to change in several states July 1

| June 25, 2013


Several states will see changes to the price of fuel at the pump as new taxes take effect July 1.

Here’s a list where changes will occur:

  • Nebraska: Motor fuels tax will increase 1.7 cents per gallon to 26.3 cents per gallon
  • North Carolina: Motor fuels tax is going up from 37.5 cents per gallon to 37.6 cents per gallon.
  • Kentucky: Fuel tax will go up 2.4 cents per gallon, raising the state tax to 32.3 cents per gallon.
  • Wyoming: The first fuel tax increase in 15 years will increase the tax to 10 cents per gallon.
  • Maryland: The first of three increases to take effect, the July 1 increase will push the state’s fuel tax to 27.5 cents per gallon
  • Virginia: The only state in which gas prices could fall, when the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon fuel tax will be replaced with a smaller tax on the wholesale price of gas, causing a drop of about six cents in the pump price.



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