Illinois truckers mobilize in opposition to bill doubling base plate fee

| 2/25/2009

“Hundreds and hundreds of calls” poured into the office of Illinois state lawmaker Daniel Beiser in recent days. According to a staffer in Beiser’s office, those calls were in opposition to legislation that would have truckers pay twice as much to base plate their trucks in the state.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent “Call to Action” e-mails to more than 1,700 truckers in Illinois encouraging them to contact committee members about the bill.

Their fervent response to Beiser and to other lawmakers helped persuade members of the Illinois House Transportation Regulation, Roads and Bridges Committee to reconsider the bill.

Tuesday, Feb. 24, lawmakers decided against moving forward with bill that would double the flat weight tax rates to be paid each registration year. For truck registrations of 80,000 pounds, the fee for tags would have increased to $5,580 – up from $2,790.

To add insult to injury, truckers also would have had to pay more for the commercial distribution fee because it is a percentage tax paid on registrations for trucks in the state. The amount is a 14.35 percent surcharge of the registration fees.

Illinois truckers have been at their wits’ end since hearing about the bill to double the base plate fee, which was offered by Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago.

Ford told Land Line in the days after he introduced the bill that the state needs to look at ways to fund the capital construction bill, and this is one option. He noted that truck fees might be a better option than imposing a tax on business.

The bill motivated truckers throughout the state to marshal forces in a fight they viewed as a threat to their trucking businesses.

Along with the OOIDA call to action to Illinois truckers, the issue also was discussed on the Association’s radio show Land Line Now on Sirius XM Radio Inc.

The Mid-West Truckers Association also was proactive on the matter. Officials with the truckers group recently talked with Rep. Ford about the bill, and he indicated that he had received numerous calls.

“He got overwhelming feedback from the trucking industry,” Matt Hart, associate director for the Mid-West Truckers Association, told Land Line Now. “Now is not the time to turn to the trucking industry for additional revenue for state funds.”

A staffer for House Transportation Committee chairman Beiser, D-Alton, indicated the bill – HB448 – wasn’t outright killed by the panel Tuesday. This means, with a mid-March deadline looming, its days are numbered.

When news of the bill first began to pop up on the computers of Illinois truckers, many were taken aback by the legislation to gouge deep into their pocketbooks.

Count owner-operator and OOIDA member Dan Reed of Assumption, IL, among the truckers who pay $2,790 for their base plates each year and chip in another $400 to cover the commercial distribution fee that was added a few years ago. Add it all up and Reed pays nearly $3,200 a year to tag his truck.

If Ford’s bill were to come to fruition, the fee for Illinois truckers like Reed would double to about $6,400.

Like so many others in his position, that reality was enough to elicit countless phone calls to members of the House committee to help sideline the bill.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.

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