Members of the trucking industry are have spoken out against a Texas Senator’s suggestion to impose a hefty vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax on commercial vehicles.
During a Tuesday Senate Finance Committee hearing on infrastructure funding, Republican Senator John Cornyn raised eyebrows when he suggested a truck-only VMT tax to help pay for road and bridge repairs and improvements.
During the hearing, Cornyn suggested that a 25 cent per mile tax on Class 7 and Class 8 trucks could generate $33 billion in revenue, based on 2019 projections from the Joint Committee on Taxation.
“A targeted vehicle miles traveled user fee on heavy trucks used in commercial vehicles, along with perhaps some relief on other fees that the trucking industry pays, to me seems like one idea that — while there’s no perfect idea, and there’s also nothing free — we need to come up with something that makes sense,” Cornyn said.
The VMT suggestion was met with immediate backlash from multiple trucking industry stakeholders. The Texas Trucking Association issued a same-day statement pointing out how devastating a VMT tax would be for small carriers:
“A 25-cent tax on every mile traveled means approximately $25,000 per truck for a truck that travels 100,000 miles a year; almost half the average salary for a truck driver. Eighty-eight percent of trucking businesses in Texas are small mom and pop shops already operating on paper thin margins who can ill afford to be targeted while helping the nation recover from a global pandemic.“
“Senator Cornyn’s vehicle miles traveled tax is an assault on the trucking industry and the more than 735,000 hard working Texans who keep the Texas economy strong. To see Senator Cornyn not only support such an ill-conceived idea, but to take the lead, is completely unacceptable to the thousands of trucking companies and small businesses across Texas that he purports to represent,” stated Texas Trucking Association President and CEO John D. Esparza.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) also had harsh words for Cornyn. “Why does John Cornyn hate truckers? These are the the men and women delivering milk, eggs, toilet paper and vaccines across the country. We don’t understand why he wants to tax the hardest working, most patriotic people in America,” the group said via Twitter.
Why does John Cornyn hate truckers? These are the the men and women delivering milk, eggs, toilet paper and vaccines across the country. We don’t understand why he wants to tax the hardest working, most patriotic people in America. 🚛🇺🇸 https://t.co/2Kp5hPKbTh
— American Trucking (@TRUCKINGdotORG) May 20, 2021
In a May 18 letter to Congress, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) pointed out possible complications with a truck-only VMT plan. “Implementing a truck-only VMT is also nowhere near as simple as some proponents have claimed. Current law prohibits the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) for anything other than monitoring hours of service. Furthermore, many trucks are not required to use ELDs because of either industry or operational exemptions – some put in place by Congress. To implement a truck-only VMT, Congress would need to dramatically increase the mandated use and scope of ELDs,” the group pointed out.
OOIDA also remarked that “Truckers already pay more than their fair share into the Highway Trust Fund and any VMT system must not single out truckers.”
A March 2021 report released by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) examined possible consequences of moving from fuel tax to a VMT tax and found that VMT could be “complicated” and “costly” to administer due in part to the likely need for the distribution of onboard devices to track vehicle miles.