October 28, 2019 12:15 PM, EDT

Researchers Explore Potential of VMT Model for Commercial Trucks

Trucks on a highwayThe Congressional Budget Office earlier this month explored the vehicle-miles-traveled as it applied to commercial trucks. (The Trucker Guy via YouTube)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

For years now, policymakers have sought a viable funding alternative to the federal fuel tax. Since raising the gas and diesel taxes continues to be an unpopular approach to funding infrastructure, most vocal members of the U.S. Congress have discussed a vehicle-miles-traveled fee as an alternative.

This month, the Congressional Budget Office explored the VMT model as applied to commercial trucks. Takeaways from their report included that in 2017 “a tax of 1 cent per mile on all roads would have raised about $2.6 billion for the trust fund if imposed on all commercial trucks and about $1.6 billion if imposed only on those with one or more trailers.”

Eugene Mulero


“Revenues would have increased almost proportionally for higher tax rates,” according to the report.

“The costs to the government of implementing a VMT tax on trucks are uncertain but would be higher than the costs of the existing tax on diesel fuel. The distributional effects of a VMT tax would be essentially the same as those of the diesel tax, however,” the report stated.

Transport Topics will have more analysis about this later this week. As CBO noted, the Highway Trust Fund will “be exhausted by 2022” without additional revenues or reductions in spending.

It is unclear if transportation leaders will pursue a narrow or broad VMT approach as part of their reauthorization of the 2015 FAST Act.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing



Spotlight Hearing

Oct. 30, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee takes a turn at investigating concerns about the Boeing 737 MAX. Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has criticized the company’s communication regarding the planes, and has questioned the ongoing efforts meant to restore safety. Witnesses include Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing CEO; and Capt. Jennifer Henderson, chief pilot for the 737.

Oct. 29, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hosts a hearing about Boeing’s 737 MAX. Witnesses include Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of the Boeing Co.; John Hamilton, vice president and chief engineer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes; Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board; and Christopher Hart, chairman of the Joint Authorities Technical Review.

Oct. 30, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considers the nomination of Sean O’Donnell to be inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Oct. 30, 11:30 a.m.: The House Small Business Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Force of Nature: The Power of Small Businesses in America’s Recreational Infrastructure.” Witnesses include Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, Bozeman, Mont.; Frank-Paul Anthony King, CEO of Temple Fork Outfitters, Dallas; Lindsey Davis, co-founder and CEO of Wylder, Salt Lake City; and John Wooden, owner of River Valley Power and Sport, Rochester, Minn., representing the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Oct. 30, 2:30 p.m.: The House Select Climate Crisis Committee hosts a hearing titled, “Solving the Climate Crisis: Opportunities in Agriculture.”

Oct. 31, 8:30 a.m.: The National Press Club hosts its 2019 Communicators Summit. Events include a town hall on “Communicators and Journalists: ‘The Road Ahead.’” Former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry is scheduled to deliver remarks during lunch.

Nicol Turner


Oct. 31, 10 a.m.: The Brookings Institution meets for a discussion titled, “Ways to Mitigate Artificial Intelligence Problems.” Participants include Robert Atkinson, president of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Nicol Turner Lee, fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation; John Villasenor, nonresident senior fellow in the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation; and Darrell West, director of governance studies at Brookings.


Mood Swings

Approval of a multiyear highway bill by the Senate EPW panel is starting to feel like a long time ago.



In Case You Missed It

California Rep. Katie Hill found herself in an all-too familiar D.C. scandal. For her predecessors, it got worse before it got better.

Who’s New

Patrick McKenna


Meet the new chief at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials: Patrick K. McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

McKenna’s career led him to stops in New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.

He succeeds Utah’s Carlos Braceras. AASHTO is among the groups sharing views and perspectives with federal policymakers crafting a new highway bill.


Last week, a senior Cummins Inc. executive at a U.S. House hearing proposed that lawmakers consider policy, regulation and markets meant to inform the development of comprehensive climate legislation.

Favorite Video

The Zuck, meet AOC. Now, discuss.

Favorite Tweet

The back-and-forth between U.S. DOT and Congress continues.

Last Word

We need to streamline our systems as much as possible. That, too, will grow the economy.

White House economic guru Larry Kudlow on Oct. 22.

Larry Kudlow

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing: