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Members of the trucking industry have spoken out against a Texas Senator’s proposal to tax commercial vehicles based on their vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

Republican Senator John Cornyn raised eyebrows when he suggested a truck-only VMT tax to help pay for road and bridge repairs and improvements during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on infrastructure funding on Tuesday.

Based on 2019 projections from the Joint Committee on Taxation, Cornyn suggested that a 25 cent per mile tax on Class 7 and Class 8 trucks could generate $33 billion in revenue during the hearing.

“A targeted vehicle miles traveled user fee on heavy trucks used in commercial vehicles, combined with possibly some relief on other fees that the trucking industry pays, to me seems like one idea that — while there is no perfect idea, and nothing is free — we need to come up with something that makes sense,” Cornyn said.

Multiple stakeholders in the trucking industry reacted angrily to the VMT suggestion. The Texas Trucking Association issued a statement the same day emphasizing the negative impact a VMT tax would have on small carriers:

“A 25-cent tax per mile traveled equates to about $25,000 per truck for a truck that travels 100,000 miles per year, or nearly half the average truck driver’s salary. Eighty-eight percent of trucking companies in Texas are small mom-and-pop operations with razor-thin profit margins that can ill afford to be singled out while assisting the country in its recovery from a global pandemic.“

“Senator Cornyn’s vehicle miles traveled tax is a slap in the face to the trucking industry and the over 735,000 hardworking Texans who keep the state’s economy humming. Senator Cornyn’s decision to not only support but lead on such an ill-conceived idea is completely unacceptable to the thousands of trucking companies and small businesses that he claims to represent in Texas,” said Texas Trucking Association President and CEO John D. Esparza.

Cornyn was also chastised by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). “What is it about truckers that John Cornyn despises? These are the people who deliver milk, eggs, toilet paper, and vaccines to people all over the country. “We don’t understand why he wants to tax America’s hardest workers and most patriotic citizens,” the group stated on Twitter.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) raised concerns about a truck-only VMT plan in a letter to Congress on May 18. “Implementing a truck-only VMT is also far from straightforward, as some proponents claim. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) are not allowed to be used for anything other than monitoring hours of service under current law. Furthermore, many trucks are exempt from using ELDs due to industry or operational exemptions, some of which were enacted by Congress. Congress would have to dramatically increase the mandated use and scope of ELDs to implement a truck-only VMT, according to the group.

“Truckers already pay more than their fair share into the Highway Trust Fund, and any VMT system must not single out truckers,” according to OOIDA.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) published a report in March 2021 that looked at the effects of switching from a fuel tax to a VMT tax and found that VMT could be “complicated” and “expensive” to administer, due in part to the likely need for the distribution of onboard devices to track vehicle miles.