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Federal Update
Freight efficiency leads to discussion of who pays what

By David Tanner, associate editor

A U.S. House panel charged with developing policy recommendations to make freight movement more efficient heard a push in October from transportation analysts who are bent on charging trucks more to travel on the national system.

OOIDA objects to a number of the concepts presented at the Oct. 10 hearing, especially those that are directly discriminatory against truckers.

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s 21st Century Freight Transportation Panel met each month from April through October to discuss freight efficiency. The 11-member panel is chaired by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, R-Tenn., with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., serving as the panel’s ranking member.

Guest speakers Robert Atkinson and Jack Schenendorf – who served on separate transportation funding and policy commissions during the Bush administration – are urging Congress to significantly increase the amount truckers pay into the system.

Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, suggests that Congress double the $550 heavy vehicle use tax and establish a mileage tax that specifically targets trucks but not cars. Atkinson also promoted truck-only toll lanes on major routes.

Schenendorf, an attorney and former member of a transportation finance commission, suggests an “E-ZPass” type of toll collected on every interstate mile for all vehicles. In addition, trucks would pay a “GPS-based” toll for each mile they travel on non-interstate highways.

OOIDA objects to the concept because it would turn every mile of every highway into a toll road for trucks. The Association was not part of the hearing, but has filed comments with the freight panel and continues to educate lawmakers about issues important to truckers.

“Truckers are willing to pay their fair share for our roads and bridges, but proposals that treat trucking as a bottomless piggy bank are a step backward in efforts to invest in infrastructure, improve our economy, and promote highway safety,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley told Land Line. 

“The average OOIDA member pays $6,000 into the Highway Trust Fund, while the average sedan owner pays under $100 a year into the federal highway program. If anything, the base of road users paying into the Trust Fund needs to be broadened.”

At press time, OOIDA planned to file written comments specific to the issues discussed during the Oct. 10 hearing. Trucking industry witnesses have testified previously before the panel discussing the negative impact of tolls on truckers and goods movement.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. – with Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., as the committee’s ranking Democrat – appointed the freight panel in April as mandated in the current highway bill.

Panelists will take recommendations and testimony from all of the hearings into account as they develop legislation to be considered by the full committee and eventually the House of Representatives.

“If you were to just listen to the witnesses testifying at this hearing (Oct. 10), and knew nothing about truckers, you would assume that truckers had money falling out of their pockets,” Bowley said.

“They were tripping over themselves about new fees and special targeted taxes on truckers, a point that was raised by several members of the panel. We look forward to submitting our comments and working with Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Rahall on addressing our highway funding challenges in a way that will improve freight efficiency without tolls or shifting the greater burden of funding the highway system to truckers.” LL