Currently, the government charges a tax on all different kinds of fuel. The current federal tax on diesel is 24.4 cents per gallon (state and local taxes bring that up to an average of 54.4 cents per gallon). This money is put towards the maintenance of our nation’s highways.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are two types of vehicles who do not pay their fair share under this system: hybrid vehicles and trucks. Both cause a disproportionate amount of wear and tear to the road relative to the amount they pay in fuel taxes. The solution being proposed? Stop taxing the fuel and start taxing the miles.
Two problems immediately surface. First, you’ve now reduced the incentive that the motoring public has to buy fuel efficient cars, which means manufacturers push less towards fuel efficiency which means we will be more highly dependent on foreign oil for longer. Second, and of more immediate concern for truckers, is that according to the Government Accountability Office, the proposed tax could cost commercial trucks between 3 and 8 cents per mile.
According to the GAO, Heavy Trucks currently pay an average of $3,363 per year into the Highway Trust Fund. Under the new plan, the average could go up to as much as $5,792. And again, that’s an average. Compare the 3 to 8 cent per mile that truckers would pay to the 1 and 2 cents per mile that cars would pay and you start to see how much of the burden truckers would be shouldering.
Unsurprising, OOIDA has stepped forward on behalf of truckers to speak against the proposal. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer objected to the massively unbalanced distribution of financial burden.
“Good roads provide people with greater mobility,” he said. “They stimulate and promote tourism. Same for economic development. We all benefit from highways regardless of whether you drive or not, but right now only users are paying in.”
“This is a problem under the current gas tax, and simply shifting to [Vehicle Miles Traveled] is not going to make that problem go away,” said OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley. “Indeed, under VMT there would be the potential to make the cost of driving a car or a truck amazingly prohibitive since depending upon how it was structured there could be the ability to automatically increase rates.”