OOIDA, coalition to Mary Peters: Deny I-80 tolls

| 12/12/2007

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to “just say no” to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission by denying its request to toll Interstate 80 in the state.

The Association sent a letter Wednesday, Dec. 12, to Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters and Federal Highway Administrator Richard Capka.

Jointly signing the letter with OOIDA were ATA, the American Highway Users Alliance and Natso – the national association of truck stop and travel plaza operators.

OOIDA has consistently taken a stand against tolling initiatives that amount to double taxation of highway users, that are financially detrimental to truckers, and that have proved to cause unsafe conditions on alternate routes as highway users avoid tolls.

“We need to do a gut check on how current resources are being used before being asked to step up to the plate and pay more for a system of financing that we are beginning to question and ‘trust’ today,” said Mike Joyce, OOIDA government affairs associate.

“Responsible use of current resources should be the priority. Unfortunately, there are too many elected and government officials that continue to pour more water into a broken bucket, instead of fixing the hole in the bottom of the bucket.”

The letter is one of several steps OOIDA has taken during the past several months against tolling I-80. In September, OOIDA hosted a press conference at the state capitol in Harrisburg, PA, along with several of its Pennsylvania members. More recently, Association officials have spoken at length at several public meetings, hearings, symposiums and press conferences throughout the state, explaining the severe financial hardship that tolling would impose on small business truckers.

“Truckers who merely drive through Pennsylvania, not just those who reside there, already contribute a great deal financially through a myriad of taxes and fees,” Joyce said. “And although heavy-duty trucks account for less than 10 percent of our nation’s highway traffic, they contribute at least 36 percent of the money going into the Federal Highway Trust Fund, money that makes its way back to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Small business truckers typically pay in excess of $16,000 in federal and state taxes, fuel taxes, highway user fees, and licensing and registration fees.

Whether the trucks are base-plated in another state or not, they pay taxes on each mile they drive in each state, and may pay an annualized percentage of their base-plate fees.

Those residing in Pennsylvania may pay $17,000 or more in fees and taxes per year because it has the highest diesel fuel tax in the country at $0.381 per gallon.

Safety is another concern if trucks begin frequenting other routes.

“The decision of truck drivers to use less suitable roads is not based on an attempt to maximize their profits, but rather it’s an exercise in survival,” explained Joyce. “Trucking is an extremely competitive business. Small-business truckers are those least able to offset higher costs of tolls. As a result, they will choose alternate routes even when that means they will contend with significantly more traffic.”

The letter from the four organizations is legislatively focused, pointing out stipulations outlined the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program that need to be met by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in order to be able to add tolls to its highways. The organizations all believe the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDOT have not met those criteria and therefore should not be granted permission to toll I-80.

“The Pennsylvania application to DOT does not meet the legal threshold provided by the law. This is a terrible hoax on the hardworking taxpayers and highway users of the commonwealth,” Joyce said.

Click here to read the letter in full.

– By Land Line staff