January 18, 2018 7:15 PM, EST

Editorial: Don’t Fear the Fuel Tax

It’s common knowledge that the federal taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline haven’t increased in years. Part of the reason could be fear among lawmakers that the issue is a political hot potato: Though it’s an easy target as a campaign issue, some politicians may fear that publicly supporting a tax increase on something nearly everyone uses could spell defeat come the next election.

But is that really true?

A panelist at a recent meeting hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that not one legislator who supported Georgia’s 2015 fuel-tax increase lost in the subsequent election, suggesting that voters may not get that incensed about the notion of contributing more to improve the roads and bridges so many of them use.

If lawmakers tell the right story, perhaps voters could get behind an increase in federal fuel taxes.

For one thing, many people drive, and they need good roads and bridges. Drivers don’t like it if they can’t get where they're going safely and on-time. Better roads can help.

That case also could be made as it relates to trucking.

Voters need to know that infrastructure upgrades could make motor carriers’ already sterling efforts to safely and efficiently deliver the goods they need even better.

Plus, much of the infrastructure work that’s needed nationwide is long overdue; voters don’t need to be scared into action, but they do need to understand that this is a serious issue. Better roads are safer roads, and this is a message that matters.

In recent weeks, American Trucking Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have put forth proposals that would raise new revenues to fund the nation’s sorely needed infrastructure improvements.

Right now, the federal fuel tax on diesel is 24.4 cents a gallon, and for gasoline it is 18.4 cents.

The chamber wants to see the federal fuel tax increase, while ATA proposes a fee at the wholesale level. But both efforts should be applauded. High-profile proposals such as these bring more attention to the issue, which, in turn, can generate public interest, and support.

Generate enough of that attention and support, and lawmakers might finally take action to create a funding source to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. It’s an easy goal to get behind, whether you’re a federal lawmaker, a motor carrier, or just an everyday driver rolling down the street.