OOIDA members deflate truck-only VMT tax plan

May 2020

Mark Schremmer

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OOIDA members played a part in preventing a truck-only vehicle miles traveled tax from gaining steam.

In February, OOIDA called on truck drivers to let lawmakers know that a truck-only VMT tax wouldn’t fly. Truckers quickly answered the call.

According to a national news report, Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in March that he ruled out a truck-only VMT tax as a way to fund a transportation bill.

“We came to the conclusion that we would never get the vehicle miles tax for trucks included, so that takes us back to kind of a grab bag of revenue measures, and we haven’t settled on anything,” Grassley told E&E News.

Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, said OOIDA members deserve a lot of credit.

“Folks, grassroots advocacy works,” Long said. “After publicly surfacing two weeks ago, the controversial truck-only VMT tax is now dead, buried by the aggressive opposition of OOIDA members. Our grassroots advocacy has again proved to be a force of nature.”

The fight

After the idea of a truck-only VMT tax was floated in the Senate and received support from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, OOIDA swiftly responded by calling the proposal a “discriminatory funding ploy.”

On Feb. 24, OOIDA sent a letter to Senate leaders in opposition of the measure and sent a Call to Action to its more than 160,000 members, asking them to call their lawmakers.

“In a disgraceful effort to generate additional highway funding, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association has pledged support for a new VMT tax exclusively on America’s truckers,” OOIDA wrote on Feb. 24. “ARTBA’s promotion of a truck-only VMT assumes that our industry doesn’t pay our fair share into the Highway Trust Fund, which we all know is complete bull.”

In the letter to Senate leaders, OOIDA called out ARTBA for being “shameless” and “arrogant.”

“ARTBA’s promotion of a truck-only VMT insinuates truckers don’t pay their fair share into the Highway Trust Fund, which is preposterous,” OOIDA wrote. “Not only is the trucking industry currently paying more than its fair share, a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office found Highway Trust Fund revenues derived from motor carriers through the heavy-vehicle and tire taxes will increase over the next decade. Between the current diesel tax and these supplemental taxes that other highway users do not pay, the trucking industry is estimated to increase its contributions to the Highway Trust Fund over the same period of time.”

In January, OOIDA wrote another letter to lawmakers, saying that any highway funding proposal should not disproportionately burden truckers.

“Professional truck drivers cover tens of billions of miles on American highways each year, so our members can speak from experience about the significant need to update and maintain our roads,” OOIDA wrote. “The economic success and competitiveness of both small-business truckers and the nation depend on a safe, reliable and well-funded national transportation system. Simply put, our members understand the value of an efficient highway network and support efforts to increase Highway Trust Fund revenues so long as they are done in a fair and equitable way.”

Additional pushback

Agricultural groups also opposed a truck-only tax.

“As you work to advance a surface transportation reauthorization bill, our organizations urge you to create a legislative package that includes funding supported by all road users,” a coalition of agricultural commodities groups wrote in a letter to Senate leaders. “We caution against the use of funding, such as a truck-only vehicle miles tax, that would place a disproportionate share of the burden on freight transportation.” LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.