Freight panel hears from supporters of truck-only tolls and mileage taxes

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 10/10/2013

A U.S. House panel charged with developing policy recommendations to make freight movement more efficient heard from a number of transportation analysts offering highway funding solutions that would lead to truckers paying significantly more than they do now to use the national system. OOIDA objects to a number of the concepts being discussed, especially those that are directly discriminatory against truckers.

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s 21st Century Freight Transportation Panel met for the final time on Thursday, Oct. 10, to discuss freight efficiency. The 11-member panel is chaired by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, R-Tenn., with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., serving as the panel’s ranking member.

Guest speakers Robert Atkinson and Jack Schenendorf – who served on federal transportation commissions during the Bush administration – are urging Congress to significantly increase the amount truckers pay into the system.

Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, suggests that Congress double the $550 heavy vehicle use tax and establish a mileage tax that specifically targets trucks but not cars.

Schenendorf, an attorney and former member of a federal transportation finance commission, suggests an “E-ZPass” type of toll collected on every interstate mile. In addition, trucks would pay a “GPS-based” toll when they travel on non-interstate highways.

OOIDA objects to the concept because it would turn every mile into a toll road.

“Truckers are willing to pay their fair share for our roads and bridges, but proposals that treat trucking as a bottomless piggy bank are a step backward in efforts to invest in infrastructure, improve our economy, and promote highway safety,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley said. 

“The average OOIDA member pays $6,000 into the Highway Trust Fund, while the average sedan owner pays under $100 a year into the federal highway program.  If anything, the base of road users paying into the Trust Fund needs to be broadened.”

OOIDA plans to file written comments to the freight panel in the coming days, and trucking industry witnesses have testified previously before the panel discussing the negative impact of tolls on truckers and goods movement.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee appointed the panel in April. Panelists will take recommendations and testimony from a number of hearings into account as they develop legislation to be considered by the full committee and eventually the U.S. House.

“If you were to just listen to the witnesses testifying at this hearing today, and knew nothing about truckers, you would assume that truckers had money falling out of their pockets,” Bowley said.

“They were tripping over themselves about new fees and special targeted taxes on truckers, a point that was raised by several members of the panel. We look forward to submitting our comments and working with Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Rahall on addressing our highway funding challenges in a way that will improve freight efficiency without tolls or shifting greater burden of funding the highway system to truckers.”

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