ATA, OOIDA Letter Strongly Opposes Cornyn’s Trucks-Only VMT Idea

ATA, OOIDA letter objecting to Sen. Cornyn's VMT tax on trucks idea
Letter sent to leaders of the Senate Finance Committee. Full text below.

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Trucking industry stakeholders continue to push back on Sen. John Cornyn’s suggestion of a nationwide transportation fee that would exclusively be levied on commercial vehicles.

In a letter to Cornyn (R-Texas) and his colleagues on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association criticized any federal effort meant to adopt a vehicle-miles-traveled, or VMT, fee exclusively for trucks. Cornyn has said revenue from the fee would be used to fund highway projects around the country.

The groups, which describe the truck-only VMT fee as the “Cornyn Tax,” pledged to vehemently oppose its adoption. They argued the levy would hinder the freight industry, impact the cost and delivery of products and goods, and overwhelm federal institutions with massive administrative assignments.

ATA, OOIDA Letter on VMT by Transport Topics

ATA and OOIDA also stressed the trucking industry’s significant contribution to federal coffers, such as the Highway Trust Fund, used to fund highway maintenance projects nationwide.

“Trucks already pay 48 times more in federal highway user fees than do cars, on top of the other roadway taxes, business taxes, and income taxes that motor carriers pay,” the groups wrote in the May 25 letter.

“Trucking is the most central and critical link in the supply chain, connecting everything our economy produces in response to consumer demands,” they continued. “As the COVID-19 pandemic reminded Americans, every product that your constituents use and depend on in their daily lives is delivered by a hardworking, professional trucker. When the operational costs of trucking fluctuate, the impacts are felt up and down the supply chain: from manufacturers and farmers, to retailers and restaurants, and on down to the end consumer.”

The industry response stems from a May 18 Finance Committee hearing in which the senator proposed colleagues consider a trucks-only transportation fee that would be part of a funding system for the country’s infrastructure network. “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,” the senator said during that hearing. “That’s something I appreciate the committee considering.”

The Senate Finance Committee has not endorsed Cornyn’s truck-only VMT suggestion.

Soon after the hearing, Texas Trucking Association President John Esparza told Transport Topics he viewed Cornyn’s action as an assault on an industry with deep roots in the Lone Star State. As he put it, “When you begin to single out small sectors of trucking, not just the trucking industry, and try to put a larger burden on them — this is not equitable, and that’s not the American way. It’s not the Texan way. It’s certainly not the trucking way.”

On Capitol Hill, transportation leaders avoiding the approval of higher fuel taxes continue to debate the merits of alternative long-term funding programs for highway and infrastructure projects. Revenue from gas and diesel taxes are no longer sufficient to meet the Highway Trust Fund’s long-term obligations. The fund assists states with highway maintenance projects. The federal fuel tax rates of 18.4 cents-per-gallon for gas and 24.4 cents-per-gallon for diesel were set in 1993.

In the letter, ATA and OOIDA stressed, “The bottom line is that any attempt to bankroll our nation’s infrastructure by singling out the trucking industry will have an immediate impact that all Americans will feel: higher prices in-store and online on everything from gas to food, from construction materials to machinery, and from medicine to clothing.”

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