Less than two weeks after announcing a $1 billion infrastructure plan funded by a truck-only toll, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb recently addressed the trucking industry’s concerns. Long story short: he says it is not a tax on truckers. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says “that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
During an interview with WIBC-FM, Gov. Holcomb answered several questions specifically about the proposed 35 percent toll increase on heavy vehicles. When presented with the notion that truckers are not too happy about a tax on them, Holcomb had a different perspective.
“I would take a little bit of an exception with your premise there that we did the deal to tax truckers, we didn’t,” Holcomb said. “We did the deal because it was brought to us.”
Holcomb was referring to the Indiana Finance Authority who owns a 75-year lease on the toll road. The governor reminded everyone that $790 million of the $1 billion plan will go to highway upgrades, including $600 million for Interstate 69, which “truckers will enjoy.” He also said more truck parking spaces will be on the toll road.
Justifying the truck toll rate increase, Holcomb mentioned that Indiana’s toll rates are well below rates in other states, including toll rates in Illinois and Pennsylvania. When questioned about the economic impact of higher shipping rates, Holcomb retreated to that rate, stating “We are still well below market rate.”
In an attempt to further justify of the move, Holcomb referenced studies that suggest five-axle trucks do 10,000 times more wear and tear on a road than a passenger car.
“Obviously we don’t charge 10,000 times more for a five-axle truck compared to a car,” Holcomb said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association dismissed Holcomb’s claim that this is not a tax on trucks, stating in a letter to members “that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
Regarding the claims of 10,000 times the wear and tear, OOIDA said “His position on this issue is mindboggling, to say the least, and it’s clear that he doesn’t really care about how this will impact small-business truckers.”
OOIDA encourages truckers to share their thoughts to the governor by calling his office at 317-232-4567 or emailing him via this form. The Association also suggested now might be a good time to boycott the Indiana Toll Road and to use the following hashtags on social media: #BoycottITR and #TollsAreTaxes.
Holcomb’s infrastructure plan
On Tuesday, Sept. 4, Holcomb announced his infrastructure plan for 2019 called the Next Level Connections program. In order to pay for the program, the Indiana Finance Authority will amend its agreement with the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. to allow the company to increase tolls on heavy vehicles by 35 percent.
Only Class 3 and above vehicles will be affected by the toll increase. Tolls for the entire 157-mile trip along I-90 for a Class 5 truck will increase from $44.46 to $60.02. Annual increases will continue as planned in the original agreement. The Indiana Finance Authority will consider the amendment later this month.
In 2006, the Indiana Motor Truck Association endorsed the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years in exchange for a phased-in truck rate. Now, the association is looking into its options.
“We are engaged at several different levels and are evaluating what, if any, options might be available to us,” IMTA president Gary Langston told Land Line.
According to a news release, the $1 billion in proceeds from the amended agreement will be used to fund planned road projects in the seven toll road counties, which will free up Indiana Department of Transportation resources to be directed to the Next Level Connections program. Essentially, increased toll rates for heavy vehicles will indirectly fund the governor’s infrastructure plan.
The new agreement will inject $50 million into additional toll road upgrades, including a smart truck parking system and expansion of overhead message boards, cameras and variable speed signs. More than $500 million in upgrades will be invested over a 10-year period.
The $1 billion will be paid out over three years: $400 million this October, $300 million next October and the remaining $300 million in October 2020.
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