Fuel taxes, not mileage taxes, most appealing to truckers

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 12/6/2013

Fuel taxes appeal to America’s truckers ahead of other proposals such as tolling or taxes based on miles traveled, OOIDA says.

The discussion deepened this week when a congressman from Oregon filed two bills related to highway funding – one that would increase fuel taxes by 15 cents and another that lays groundwork for a future tax on vehicle miles traveled, or VMT.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., filed HR3636, a bill that would increase the federal excise tax on motor fuels by 15 cents by 2015 and tie future increases to inflation through 2025. The increase would apply to both gasoline and diesel and be carried out in increments. The last time fuel taxes were increased was in 1993.

Truckers support the fuel-tax system while urging those holding the purse strings to account for every dime.

“We, as well as others, have been supportive of increases in fuel taxes provided that money goes for roads and bridges and not other things that aren’t roads and bridges,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

The second Blumenauer bill is HR3638, which would grant federal money to states to conduct pilot programs to tax highway users by vehicle miles traveled instead of a per-gallon tax at the pump. Part of the reasoning is that hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles currently do not pay fuel taxes and therefore are not contributing to the funding of infrastructure or safety programs.

Spencer says truckers acknowledge the need for vehicles to pay their fair share, but a VMT tax for everyone may not be the way to go.

“We think that while certainly we have vehicles that use the road that don’t pay taxes at all – they need to pay something into the system. But at this point, the multitude of issues raised by VMT on a grand scheme are a little too big of a hill to climb right now,” he said.

A VMT tax would essentially convert all roads into toll roads. Truckers and other highway users should also be concerned about privacy since a VMT tax would likely come with some sort of tracking system via satellite, computer or some other device.

The Blumenauer VMT bill attempts to address the privacy issue, but leaves the decision up to states receiving the pilot program grants to sort it out.

“On a vehicle-mile tax, we’re a little apprehensive about that,” Spencer said, adding that a VMT tax or toll could be set up to charge trucks a whole lot more than they currently pay.

“For the trucker going down the road, that driver is performing a needed task, but the true beneficiaries of that truck going down the road are all of us, the general population,” Spencer said.

“Our transportation system is designed to generate economic activity. It’s not there simply for a truck to drive on. That’s an important point for those who see trucks as cash cows,” he added.

“Those needed modes of transportation other than cars certainly have value to the nation and to people and cities, but the idea that you fund all that with fees on cars and trucks is badly outdated.”

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