OOIDA: Truckers need tangible relief

January 22, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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Lawmakers have routinely labeled truck drivers as heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is providing them with some ideas of how they can thank truckers for ensuring that grocery store shelves remain stocked and hospitals have the supplies they need.

In a letter sent on Friday, Jan. 22, to the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees, OOIDA asked for a one-year suspension of the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax and to bring back the per diem deduction in any future COVID-relief bill.

“Specific assistance to truckers must be part of any future COVID-relief package,” OOIDA wrote. “Congress should provide targeted and immediate financial relief through a one-year suspension of the HVUT to assist owner-operators and small-business carriers, and enact a permanent reinstatement of the ability of employee drivers to deduct daily expenses for meals while on the road.”

OOIDA suggests suspending HVUT

OOIDA said that suspending HVUT for a year is a direct way that Congress can help every trucking business.

“While some trucking operations have been able to qualify for pandemic assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, far too many have been ineligible because of the program’s structure,” OOIDA wrote. “Suspending the HVUT would bypass the complications of this program and provide a simple way to make sure that small-business truckers get relief.”

The tax is required for vehicles operating at more than 55,000 pounds. A typical fee for Class 8 trucks is $550.

“For small-business truckers, a suspension of the HVUT would provide immediate relief and help offset some of the unexpected challenges they’ve experienced, whether it be a significant decrease in business due to government-mandated lockdowns, increased delays due to supply chain disruptions, or increased costs for personal protective equipment,” OOIDA wrote.

To make sure the relief targets small-business truckers, OOIDA suggested having Congress limit a motor carrier or tax filer to suspending the HVUT on up to 19 vehicles.

Per diem

While company drivers are not subject to the HVUT, the Association said that Congress can help them by restoring their ability to deduct meal expenses incurred while on the road. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated company drivers’ ability to deduct 80% of up to $66 in daily expenses for meals while on the road.

In the 2019 article titled “Blindsided,” Land Line reported examples of employee truck drivers who were surprised to learn that they owed thousands of dollars on their 2018 taxes.

“Congress included a 100% deduction for business meal expenses in its end-of-year COVID-relief bill, but employee drivers are not eligible to take this deduction,” OOIDA wrote. “Instead, this business meal tax break will be available to executives who have been able to work from home through the worst of this pandemic. Furthermore, these business meals would not be possible without truckers who keep the supply chain moving.

“The very least Congress can do right now is help truckers who are still out on the road and away from their families by restoring the ability of employee drivers to deduct meal expenses.”

In December, OOIDA blasted Congress for forgetting about truckers in the $900 billion pandemic relief package.

Now, OOIDA is asking lawmakers to do more for truckers than just say thanks.

“While truckers certainly appreciate the thanks that Congress and the public have heaped on them for their work, that doesn’t help keep their business alive or put food on their table,” OOIDA wrote. “Congress has a real opportunity to demonstrate their support and commitment to hard-working truckers in any upcoming COVID-relief bill by embracing our recommendations.” LL

WW Williams

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.