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Biden Infrastructure Plan Could Receive Funding From VMT Tax

Discussion of a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax is ongoing during the talks for funding the new infrastructure plan being proposed by the Biden Administration.
Fotofabrika/Deposit Photos

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the announcement of President Biden's proposed infrastructure bill, there have been many talks of funding options for the three trillion dollar plan. 

There has been discussion of a Vehicle Miles Traveled or VMT tax to help raise revenue to assist the diminishing Highway Trust Fund and is expected to be included in the talks. Other revenue options are being looked at as well. 

House Representatives Pete DeFazio (D-OR) and Sam Graves (R-MO) have stated they support looking into the tax. They are both members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Since 2010, the support for mileage fees has increased by 20 percent. This comes directly from a public survey conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute. 

Within the commercial trucking industry, the suggestion of a VMT tax has been met with opposition. There has also been talk of a VMT tax applicable to commercial trucks only.

For years, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and American Trucking Associations have supported the fuel tax. This tax is the primary revenue source that covers road bridge and highway infrastructure and improvements.

President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Todd Spencer, said this in a press release. "We understand that many elected officials lack the courage to raise fuel taxes. But singling out trucks to carry all the weight is discriminatory."

This is in reference to a letter that the Association sent to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance earlier in the month. They stated that a VMT tax for commercial trucks only would not be a viable option. 

However, about 53 percent of Americans currently support the idea of a fee that would charge vehicles with higher pollution output, such as diesel vehicles, a higher rate than the rate for a vehicle that puts out less pollution. 

Slightly more than half of the adults who responded to the survey felt that the mileage fees should be less for electric vehicles than those for diesel or gas vehicles. The same amount of people also supported a business road-use fee that would be assessed for miles that commercial vehicles drive on the job. The fee was supported by 52 percent of people in regards to freight and delivery trucks. 

Contrary to those reports, the American Transportation Research Institute has published its own reports stating that the public majorly dislikes a federal VMT tax. 

The American Transportation Research Institute recently released a report that details the costs of operating and collecting a VMT tax in the United States. They found that the tax would be a more costly and complicated replacement of the fuel tax that is already in place. 

They also found that the best way to ensure a technologically realistic approach would be an onboarding system. These would need to be provided to over 272 million vehicles across the nation, and the cost would be roughly $13.6 billion, without factoring in collection or shipping costs. Those would add several billion more to the overall costs for the system. 

According to the study, most of the United States is mainly private SUVs and cars, at roughly 68 percent, followed by pickups at 17.5 percent. The remainder is made up of buses, motorcycles, straight trucks, and vans. Less than one percent of vehicles are truck-tractors that are owned or operated within the commercial trucking industry. 

The American Transportation Research Institute concluded that the VMT tax being applied to only the trucking industry would cover only a tiny section of American vehicles' entire population. 

Truck-trailers may only account for one percent of the total vehicle count in America. However, they account for more than five percent of miles driven. Data from the Federal Highway Administration in 2019 showed that the vast majority of miles driven in the U.S. are done by light-duty vehicles like cars or SUVs. 

The Federal Highway Administration has supported development for long-term financial stability within the Highway Trust Fund, including mileage-based fee programs. These are through the Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives grant program. They have been actively working toward this since 2016. 

This month, $18.7 million in grants was awarded to the Federal Highway Administration for eight projects. They are testing new user-based funding methods for bridges and highways to supplement the Highway Trust Fund. These grant programs fund projects testing implementation, design, and acceptance of such user-based systems. They also support transportation officials to reach out to help the public in understanding the new methods. 

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July 16, 2021 at 1:03 PM
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