Without delay and with very little notice, Indiana’s truck-only toll increase will go into effect on Friday, Oct. 5. The toll increase plan was announced on Sept. 4 and approved on Sept. 20 without input from the public or stakeholders.
Effective Oct. 5, only Class 3 (three-axle) and above vehicles will see tolls increase by 35 percent. Tolls for the entire 157-mile trip along I-90 for a Class 5 (five-axle) truck will increase from $44.46 to $60.02. Annual increases will continue as planned in the original agreement.
On Sept. 4, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced his infrastructure plan for 2019 called the Next Level Connections program. In order to pay for the program, the Indiana Finance Authority amended its agreement with the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. to allow the company to increase tolls on heavy vehicles by 35 percent. IFA approved the amendment on Sept. 20, giving the public and stakeholders no opportunity to review the agreement.
The toll increase comes despite sharp criticism from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Indiana Motor Truck Association.
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.”
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.”
Gary Langston, president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, issued a response after the final vote on Sept. 20:
“We continue to be extremely disappointed in the Indiana Finance Authority’s vote today and Gov. Holcomb’s truck-only, secretly-negotiated and toll-financed Next Level Connections transportation plan. Tolls are taxes—and when taxes go up, so does the cost of doing business. The governor’s new infrastructure proposal would fail Economics 101 because it assumes small businesses will simply eat the costs of their new toll tax burden. Instead, we know that these new costs will be passed on to Hoosier families. Increasing tolls on trucks by 35 percent is a veiled supplier tax that will increase the price of food, manufacturing, and practically all consumer goods along the Indiana Toll Road—and beyond.”
Langston also pointed out that the 35 percent increase is to fund various projects for only the next three years. However, after the three years are up, the increased toll rates will remain, “only benefiting the private corporation that manages the Indiana Toll Road for the more than 60 years left in the contract.”
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