Taxes, Tolls, & Truckers

It’s a fair statement to say that the feds have dropped the ball on keeping our nations highways in shape. The fuel tax, the key mechanism set up in the 1950’s to fund the animal is still at 38 cents per gallon. That tax is split between 18.4 cents per gallon of gas and  24.4 cents per gallon of diesel. That’s the same rate it was in 1993. These, along with other excise taxes fund the Highway Trust Fund. Unfortunately, that fund is effectively broke right now. When established, cars got 5 miles per gallon and big rigs got about 1 mile per gallon, so we used to suck in a whole lot of fuel juice. Today, cars get average mpg in the mid 20’s and trucks get a whopping 5.6 miles to the gallon! Hey – it’s better than 1! Those changes alone mean less money in the fund. Now throw in a steady growth for electric cars, which either use no gas or limited if they are a hybrid, and the money fund goes down even further.

Now that does not mean funds have not been allocated for our roads. Going back t0 Clinton, which was the last time the taxes were raised and you’ll find several transportation funding allocations:

  • 1995 – 8 billion added to Highway Trust Fund as part of the National Highway System Designation Act
  • 1996 – 13.1 billion for transportation projects under HR 2002
  • 1998 – Clinton signs Highway Bill that poured 217 billion into funding. 41 billion was for mass transit
  • 1999 – For fiscal 2000, Clinton gets Transportation Spending Bill for 50.2 billion
  • 2002 – Fiscal year 2002 saw over 61 billion in transportation spending
  • 2003 –  Fiscal year 2003 saw over 67 billion in transportation spending
  • 2004 – Transportation Equity Act: 275 billion authorized, 64 billion spent that year
  • 2005 –  Fiscal year 2005, another 67 billion spent
  • 2006 – Fiscal year 2006 saw 70.7 billion spent
  • 2007 – Fiscal year 2007 was another 76.9 billion
  • 2008 – last year before Barry, 12.1 billion as Bush’s War on Terror funding sucked up 145 billion

That’s a load of money. I have not even listed Barry’s bills. Oh, and the Highway Trust Fund was declared insolvent in 2007…

Barry got his 800 billion Stimulus is 2009. Of that, roughly 80 billion went to infrastructure. So rather than do the year by, here is the summary of spending on transportation (infrastructure and related items) expended during the reign of the Lord Obama from the US Government budgets – 549.3 billion and that does not include data from 2011 and 2016 as it buried in so many reports, I did not want my eyes to bleed out.

Man – that’s a lot of money. Now, transportation is not just building and maintaining roads, but other infrastructure like mass transit as well as the cost to operate them.

It’s not like the monies have not been flowing, regardless of who is in Congress or the White House. So, why do we need to still spend a trillion on roads? Out tax money is going in and the appropriations are going out. I know there are and have been highway projects going on everywhere. Here is what I also know, many states have gotten tired of waiting on the feds in many states and are taking matters into their own hands.

Rhode Island Department of Transportation Toll Plan
In 2015 the Rhode Island Legislature rolled out a plan called Rhode Works. Cute. Bottom line – create new tolls to pay for repairs to roads and bridges. Hey, if the feds won’t doll the funds timely, take matters into your hands. I get it.

Here was the problem – this one targets truckers and truckers only to pay for the system. Hmmmmm.

Guess that thing called the Constitution and the Interstate Commerce Clause did not ring a bell? Well, the plan rolled out, tolls on truckers starting coming in and all was well in Providence, RI. The program was sold as a way to have truckers pay their “fair share” of wear and tear on RI roads according to RIDOT Director Peter Alviti.

So, it could be assumed that trucks are everywhere on RI roads? RI has 436000 registered cars, so how many trucks does it take to equal that amount of driving wear and tear? I don’t know, but my guess is truckers are getting hammered here. I plan on asking Director Alviti on air as I have invited him onto The Automotive Edge Radio Show with Truck Talk to discuss the issue. I want to give him a fair chance to talk on the issue.

In July of 2018, the American Trucking Association filed a lawsuit to stop the program. Eyes are on the lawsuit all over the nation, as its outcome will impact drivers all over the US.

This past week I had Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell on the show to discuss the issue. Maxwell brought up some key points on air:

  • There is a substantial amount of work that is being re-done to, shall we say, questionable original construction. This may be a factor nationally, as I have shown the numbers on federal outlays.
  • Maxwell believes this is a set up for uniform tolls on RI residents in the near future. There could be some credence here, as RI only enacted a variable increase in the fuel tax of 1 cent in 2015 when they could have taken more and distributed the cost.

Stopping the Attacks on the Trucking Industry
I have dealt with truckers for 20 years and I know all the crap they go through to bring you and me goods. Everything you have or buy was transported to the place you bought it at by a trucker. Think about that. Tolls are just one of the many frontal assaults coming at an industry in crisis.

Its time to learn more how to help the industry. I personally like being able to buy groceries and other goods.

Unless of course, you raise your own food, build your own shelters, sew your own clothes…..

Think they call them Amish.

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