This Opinion piece appears in the June 6 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
By Steven E. Parker
Baltimore Potomac Truck Centers
As chairman of the American Truck Dealers, the challenge for all of us — truck manufacturers, trucking companies and dealers — is to build relationships with members of Congress and federal regulators so that we have a voice in shaping the environment in which our businesses operate.
In this pivotal election year, a new president and vice president will be elected, and all seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 34 seats in the U.S. Senate will be up for grabs. New officials will be appointed to run powerful federal agencies — the same agencies tasked with creating rules and regulations that affect the commercial truck industry.
With so much at stake, we must ensure that our industry has a voice in Washington, D.C.
Every day, dealers, manufacturers, fleet owners and trucking allies work to influence policies coming out of the nation’s capital. We have made efforts to meet with our government representatives to let them know what we do and what our products and services mean for our customers, and our industry’s positive impact on the nation’s economy. I have personally hosted members of Congress to tour my dealership, meet with employees and ride in a heavy-duty truck.
At every turn, ATD works hard to let the government know that Trucking Moves America Forward, and that Washington has a real impact on real businesses and real people.
Arguably the most dangerous tax to fleet operations and the retail market is the Federal Excise Tax, or FET, which originally was imposed in 1917 to defray the cost of World War I. The Federal Excise Tax is the highest levied by Congress on any product on a percentage basis. The tax on highway heavy-duty trucks, tractors and trailers has grown from 3% in 1955 to 12% today.
A dealer’s struggle is not all that different from the rest of the industry. The reality is that trucking companies are struggling with rising costs and the burdens of regulatory compliance. The bottom line is that these costs will make it even harder for all businesses to afford a new heavy-duty truck. And any further increase in the FET would hinder new heavy-duty truck sales and delay the deployment of cleaner, safer and more fuel-efficient trucks.
Fortunately, efforts are under way in Congress to address this issue. Last year, Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) introduced H. Con. Res. 33, a bipartisan resolution — which has 30 co-sponsors as of May 25 — that would put Congress on record in opposition to any FET increase. And in mid-May, Sen. Cory Gardner (R.-Colo.) introduced S. Con. Res. 40, the Senate version of this bill.
I’m urging stakeholders in the commercial truck industry to contact their members of Congress and ask them to address the harmful Federal Excise Tax by co-sponsoring these resolutions.
Later this year, the National Highway Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are planning to issue Phase 2 of the aggressive fuel economy and greenhouse-gas rules, or GHG. ATD stressed that the truck and engine-efficiency standards must be affordable and not compromise performance. ATD also insisted that the new rules be uniform nationwide and align with the sale of new trucks and equipment. Otherwise, the environmental and energy advantages that the government seeks won’t be feasible.
Nothing in this country moves without a truck. So as we move through this election year and the future, it is up to us to ensure that the commercial truck industry remains safe and secure for ourselves and our families, for our employees and our customers.
Parker is chairman of the American Truck Dealers, a division of the National Automobile Dealers Association in Tysons, Virginia, that represents 1,800 heavy- and medium-duty truck dealerships. Baltimore Potomac Truck Centers, located in Linthicum, Maryland, is a third-generation, family-owned business that operates five full-service commercial truck dealership locations with Mack, Volvo and Hino Trucks franchises in Maryland and Virginia.