Vehicle-miles-traveled tax (or VMT tax) is once again making its way to the forefront as lawmakers seek to fund the repair and maintenance of the highway system in the United States. Both the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are opposing any VMT tax that proposes to shift the burden exclusively onto the trucking industry.
VMT Tax Explained
The VMT has been proposed by a number of states as a means to maintain infrastructure in the country. Originally, highways were maintained and repairs through a fuel tax, but those revenues have been dropping steadily since the early-2000s. As a replacement to the fuel tax, states floated the idea of taxing drivers for road usage. In some cases, the VMT tax is levied by miles traveled, much like a toll. In others, the tax is configured by type of vehicle, vehicle weight, emissions, and the ability of the vehicle owner to pay the toll. Since most private individuals are driving less, combined with increased fuel efficiency for cars, lawmakers have turned their focus on the trucking industry, which would yield the highest VMT tax revenue. As things stand, the Congressional Budget Office is looking for a way to pay the $94 billion needed to cover a six-year highway reauthorization bill.
Opposition to the VMT Tax
Both the ATA and OOIDA are opposed to a VMT tax, stating it could place a disproportionate burden on the trucking industry and owner-operators. Additionally, there are concerns that ELDs could be used to create new costs via the VMT tax and would infringe on the privacy of truckers across the country. The stance is that truckers already pay highway tolls out of their own pockets, and are rarely reimbursed by shippers. A VMT tax would ultimately reduce take-home pay for truckers.
As more state lawmakers are pushing for VMT as a viable way to tax drivers, going back to a fuel tax doesn’t seem like a possibility. With more private vehicle owners switching to electric engines, and new electric commercial vehicles are slated to hit the roads in the near future, focusing on VMT would place the financial burden on carriers and owner-operators. Both the ATA and OOIDA are hoping to come to some resolution with lawmakers this year.