ATA, Freight Leaders Press Congress on Excise Tax Repeal

Clean Freight Coalition Says Repeal Would Accelerate Energy Efficiency
Kenworth lot
The World War I-era federal excise tax is 12% on new commercial trucks. (Kenworth)

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When they return to Washington from their August recess, congressional policymakers should begin the process of repealing a tax on the purchase of new trucks, a group of freight stakeholders indicated recently.

American Trucking Associations and other members of the collective Clean Freight Coalition renewed their push for the repeal of the World War I-era 12% excise tax on new commercial trucks. Doing so, the groups argued, would facilitate the introduction of more energy efficient equipment in the commercial transportation marketplace.

The stakeholders focused their message on the leadership of the tax-writing committees on Capitol Hill. “Removing the [federal excise tax] is a critical step to deploying these environmentally friendly technologies faster across the entire industry,” the groups wrote Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Reps. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairmen and ranking members of the Finance and Ways and Means panels, respectively.

“As federal agencies consider the opportunities and costs related to additional truck safety equipment mandates,” the groups continued, “repealing the FET will lower prices for end users who typically pay higher prices than the isolated costs of specific components when federal requirements change, and thus speed the deployment of these valuable technologies on our nation’s highways.”

The coalition emphasized that the tax is an impediment for the industry. Clean Freight Coalition members include ATA, American Truck Dealers, Natso, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, the National Tank Truck Carriers and the Truckload Carriers Association. They added, “Stakeholders across the trucking supply chain stand ready to work with those champions and other leaders in Congress to advance this important proposal.”

Members of Congress are scheduled to resume their legislative agenda after Labor Day. It is unclear, however, when federal lawmakers intend to pursue a debate on this long-standing tax.

Prior to the congressional August recess, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) unveiled the Modern, Clean and Safe Trucks Act of 2023. The bill targets the excise tax.

“The current federal excise tax has become a barrier to our progress in encouraging cleaner and greener technology,” Cardin said in March. “I am proud to support tax policy that enables Maryland manufacturers to innovate and deploy cleaner and safer technologies in our trucking industry. Our legislation will spur growth and competitiveness while making our roads safer and less polluted.”

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“It’s time to repeal this outdated and onerous tax on our Hoosier truckers,” Young said in a statement that accompanied the bill’s introduction. The two senators are members of transportation policy committees.

House policymakers, meanwhile, introduced a similar version. Both the House and Senate bills await consideration in the tax-writing committees.

“Repealing the 12% federal excise tax on heavy trucks and trailers will help all businesses reduce costs, address supply chain challenges and lower costs for essential goods for families, especially in rural areas,” explained Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), a co-sponsor. He is a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.