Sens. Boxer and Inhofe reject suggested automated mileage reporting

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 5/9/2008

Future highway revenue may be tied closer to per-mile taxes, but the federal government shouldn’t be armed with automated devices showing where truckers and motorists travel, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said this week.

Setting up a “Big Brother is watching you” system won’t fly, said Boxer, D-CA.

“Simply ask the trucker every year, ‘how many miles did you travel?’ ” Boxer said. “Why do we need all these fancy ways of doing it?”

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works had an hourlong hearing Thursday, May 8, titled “Goods Movement on our Nation’s Highways.” Senators discussed infrastructure needs as Congress is beginning to consider funding to replace the highway and transit authorization legislation SAFETEA-LU, which expires in September 2009.

Committee members estimated a $5 billion shortfall between current transportation requests and projected revenues in 2009, and three panelists suggested everything from fees on bills of lading and added mileage taxes to leveraging privately held assets.

Mortimer Downey, a former U.S. Transportation Secretary, told the committee he believed that technology-based systems showing truck locations could be implemented sooner than such technology for automobiles, and “probably would be welcomed.” Such systems could report mileage driven for fees and taxes, Downey said.

Boxer told the panelists that she and Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, have voiced opposition to black-box-type devices automatically showing authorities where citizens travel, and suggested a voluntary reporting system.

“I’m not sure you would get the voluntary compliance you would seek,” Downey said.

“Well that’s sad,” Boxer replied.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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