February 19, 1999 - The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. (OOIDA) announces the filing of four class action suits against the taxing authorities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York, seeking refunds of fuel taxes collected on the basis of miles driven on the states' toll roads. Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA, pointed out that tolls collected by the toll road authorities in each of the defendant states are more than sufficient to pay for the full cost of the toll roads.
"The imposition of fuel taxes based upon miles driven on the toll roads is nothing short of double taxation," Johnston says. "The trucking industry has always been willing to pay its fair share of the cost of highways," he says, but "the Commerce Clause does not permit states to impose taxes or fees that exceed that which is reasonable and appropriate for the services provided. OOIDA is committed to overturning this practice of double taxation in the courts."
Complaints filed by OOIDA allege that annual reports of each of the tolling authorities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York show that these toll roads are completely self-sufficient financially. OOIDA contends that since those who use the toll roads pay for that use once with their tolls, states cannot tax them for use of toll roads a second time through the fuel use tax.
OOIDA estimates that fuel use taxes collected from truckers for miles driven on toll roads in the defendant states represent hundreds of millions of dollars in double taxation.
"This double taxation is a hefty economic blow to an industry that hasn't seen a profit in the last decade" Johnston says.
"Our success in these lawsuits is especially critical to all truckers now," he says, given recent events in Washington. Last year, Congress gave states new authority to begin collecting tolls on existing interstate highways.
"Our legal actions will communicate the message to states that truckers will no longer stand for unfair double taxation," he says.
OOIDA is asking the courts for a permanent injunction against states collecting fuel taxes on toll road miles. OOIDA is also asking that refunds of illegally collected fuel taxes be made going back four years.
Also named as a defendant in each of these suits is the International Fuel Tax Association, Inc., (IFTA), a non-profit association formed under the auspices of the National Governors Association to coordinate the collection of fuel use taxes by individual states. OOIDA is not seeking damages from IFTA, but claims that IFTA's assistance will be needed in order to coordinate the payment of tax refunds by the defendant.
OOIDA, an international trade association of professional owner-operators and drivers, is headquartered in Grain Valley, MO. Small-business truckers represent nearly half of the total number of Class 7 and 8 trucks operated in the U.S.