Highway funding proposal shouldn’t single out truckers, OOIDA says

January 28, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Any highway funding proposal should not disproportionately burden truckers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee in letters sent on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The letters were sent one day before the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to host a hearing titled “Paving the Way for Funding and Financing Infrastructure Investments.” The Senate also is likely to begin work on highway funding proposals in an attempt to offset projected shortfalls. In its report released on Jan. 28, the Congressional Budget Office said a six-year highway reauthorization bill will need at least $94 billion in additional revenue.

“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 in a letter signed by President Todd Spencer. “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.”

A recent report from the Washington State Transportation Commission recommends that the state begin its initial move away from fuel taxes in order to avoid long-term issues with financing the increasing and evolving needs of the highway system.

Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Sam Graves, R-Mo., said the report shows that it is time to begin transitioning to a vehicle-miles-traveled tax.

Highway funding via VMT tax

“The report clearly shows that transitioning to a VMT system is a more equitable way to charge drivers for the roads they use, and that we are in fact capable of beginning that transition now,” Graves said in a news release.

However, OOIDA said federal gasoline and diesel taxes are proven mechanisms that provide a transparent and efficient way to fund the highways.

“Congress should be looking to build on this relatively stable and predictable system,” OOIDA wrote. “Therefore, we support efforts to increase dedicated revenues to the Highway Trust Fund through reasonable and impartial increases to federal gasoline and diesel taxes.”

OOIDA said it has many concerns regarding a VMT tax.

“While this concept may sound appealing in theory, there are far too many questions and uncertainties for Congress to begin implementing any sort of VMT program in the next highway bill,” OOIDA wrote.

Among OOIDA’s concerns are the costs associated with a VMT tax, including the cost for equipment to establish the system, the administrative costs for highway users and the government to track and collect taxes, and the cost to enforce the program.

“While we are opposed to moving forward with a VMT program in general, we are particularly concerned about proposals that would single out the trucking industry for a truck-only VMT,” OOIDA wrote. “This would assure that truckers pay a disproportionate cost to prop up the Highway Trust Fund. We also oppose any efforts to utilize electronic logging devices to implement a VMT tax for trucks.

“Small-business truckers have already borne a significant and disproportionate cost for complying with the ELD mandate, and utilizing ELDs for VMT would create new costs and greater privacy issues.”

Tolls

OOIDA is also against expanded tolling, saying that system lacks efficiency and effectiveness.

“Truckers predominantly pay tolls out of pocket, as shippers seldom reimburse toll charges under the freight rate system,” OOIDA wrote. “For small trucking businesses, any expansion of tolling, especially on major highways like interstates, will directly impact their bottom line. Often operating on the slimmest of margins, new out-of-pocket expenses would diminish an owner-operator and their family’s income.”

The Association added that while the Highway Trust Fund contributions of truckers is expected to increase over the next decade, revenue from the gasoline tax is expected to drop by 11%.

“We believe it makes no sense to single out an industry, whether through a VMT tax or tolling, that already has a stable funding mechanism that can be improved upon,” OOIDA wrote.

“As your committee considers ways to raise revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, we hope that you will keep America’s small-business truckers’ concerns in mind.”

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.