May 2, 2016 4:00 PM, EDT

Portland, Ore., to Consider Truck-Only Tax

The City Council in Portland, Oregon, will consider a four-year, heavy-vehicle use tax when it meets May 4, with a vote likely to come the following week. The tax would add 2.8% to the tax bills of trucking firms that have a Portland business license. Trucks already pay a weight-mile tax in Oregon, which doesn’t have a diesel fuel tax. 

Portland voters will decide on a proposed 10 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase on Oregon’s May 17 primary ballot. According to Oregon Trucking Associations President Jana Jarvis, the city has a lone diesel fuel provider who worried that he would go out of business if a diesel tax was instituted.

“This is the latest proposal on how to collect revenue from heavy trucks,” Jarvis said about the proposed 2.8% tax measure that’s being pushed by Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick, who didn’t respond to an interview request. “This program focuses on Portland’s city streets, which our trucks use far less than on the state’s highway system. If they put a surcharge on the weight-mile tax because you make a delivery or a pickup in Portland with two of your 100 trucks, you would have to pay that on all miles traveled in the state.”

Jarvis said Portland is considering the measure because Oregon’s Legislature failed to pass a transportation funding package. Her association wants to amend the heavy-vehicle use tax so that it can only go into effect if: the gas tax is approved; firms are offered the choice between a surcharge on the weight-mile tax or on the Portland business license tax; and an appeals process is created.

The tax measure reads:  "Due to the fact that a relatively small number of businesses account for most of the heavy-truck activity and therefore most of the costs associated with heavy trucks, most businesses will pay a relatively small amount. On the flip side, a handful of very large trucking businesses will pay more based on their volume of trucking activity.”