Oregon Trucking Stakeholders Sue State Over Road Taxes

State Trucking Association and Three Companies Assert Share of Taxes Paid Is Too High
Oregon highway
Traffic moves on Oregon I-205 near Portland. (Doug Kerr/Flickr)

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A group of Oregon trucking companies have sued the state and its top politicians, alleging that for years truckers have been charged more than their share of road taxes.

The Oregon Trucking Association, along with companies Combined Transport, A&M Transport and Sherman Bros. Trucking, allege that they’ve footed a third of the taxes and fees paid by motorists, even though trucks make up only 15% of the state’s vehicles. They say the Oregon Constitution requires those costs be split according to how much each type of vehicle contributes to road wear and damage.

Oregon truckers pay a weight-mile tax, which charges vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds based on weight and mileage. Those taxes fund highway and road maintenance, as do the gas taxes that passenger vehicles pay.

One way to bring taxes back into line would be to reduce the weight-mile tax. But that would further pummel the agency’s already sagging budget.

The Oregon Department of Transportation expects a deficit of $680 million by 2029. That’s largely due, ODOT has said, to rising costs and slower-than-anticipated revenue from the gas tax as cars become more fuel efficient. A reduction in heavy vehicle taxes would likely mean even more cuts to maintenance, service and repairs.

The likely alternatives, though, would be unpopular: raising gas taxes or registration fees paid by other drivers.


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Gov. Tina Kotek, House Speaker Dan Rayfield and Senate President Rob Wagner, all three of whom were named in the lawsuit, have said that the Legislature plans to work toward modernizing the state’s transportation funding system during the next regular session in 2025.

But trucking companies said they can’t wait.

Oregon Trucking Association President Jana Jarvis said the Legislature set highway tax rates in 2017 based on major road projects that it expected the Oregon Department of Transportation would need to pay for.

But seven years later, Jarvis said, several of those big projects, such as the Interstate 5 expansion near the Rose Quarter, haven’t happened. As a result, she said, truckers are overpaying by hundreds of millions of dollars.

If the state implements a planned increase for the weight-mile tax this year, she said, truckers will have overpaid at least $500 million in highway taxes by 2025.

A biennial state study of vehicle taxes found that heavy vehicles are projected to overpay their share by 32% between 2023 and 2025, and that light vehicles were anticipated to underpay by 12%.

Jarvis noted that it’s already been a challenging time for truckers since the pandemic began to fade.

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“During the pandemic, people stayed at home and spent their money on goods,” she said. “When they started coming out again, the goods economy slowed quickly and dramatically. We don’t haul services, we haul goods.”

The trucking association is asking for an acknowledgment of the imbalance and for the Legislature to walk back a tax increase. The three trucking companies are each asking for monetary relief, ranging from just over $153,000 to nearly $480,000.

The Oregon Department of Transportation declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.

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