In an interview with IdahoReporter.com Tuesday, an official with the Idaho Trucking Association (ITA) said that a proposal by Keith Allred, Democratic gubernatorial nominee, to increase fees on heavy trucks would hurt families in the state. Kathy Fowers, spokesman for ITA, says that Allred's proposal doesn't take into account all the facts about how much wear and tear heavy trucks put on roadways. She also said that if Allred is elected and his plan is enacted, Idaho families would be forced to shell out more when buying everyday purchases.
Allred, at a Stinker station in Boise Monday, proposed a 3-cent reduction in the gas tax, with a hike in fees paid by heavy truckers. He was working off the findings of a report released last week by a task force charged with finding more dollars for highway repairs and maintenance, which said that under one scenario, motorists driving light passenger cars and pickup trucks overpay for highway maintenance by about 8 percent, while heavy trucks underpay by about 14 percent. The numbers were based on the dollar amounts each group of drivers paid for road work compared to the amount of wear they put on Idaho's road. Some estimates say that one fully-loaded semi-truck can equal the wear and tear of 10,000 passenger cars.
Fowers said that properly maintained and cared for five-axle trucks does no more damage to the state's roads than cars or trucks, if the roads are constructed properly. Fowers noted that for roads to be ready to handle the stress of heavy truck traffics, adjustments do have to be made in the construction process, including adding about 3 percent in additional thickness to the cement or pavement.
The ITA believes that truckers in the state pay enough taxes - both federal and state - and that fee increases would be detrimental to the industry as a whole and to Idaho families. "We already pay $17,000 a year in user fees and taxes for the state and federal governments," Fowers explained. "Taxes and fees that truckers pay now more than compensate for the added thickness needed to handle trucks." She said higher fees or taxes for truckers would result in higher costs for families. "Every time they go to the store, they (families) are going to have to pay so much more," Fowers said.
Allred didn't have a defined plan on how he would increase fees on truckers, but said he would work with members of the trucking industry and association from around the state to determine a fair way to increase revenue. Fowers said that the whole premise of Allred's argument is flawed. "Why in the world would he want to reduce taxes when they haven't been raised in several years?" she questioned. "That's why we're in trouble now."
Another reason there is a gap in state funding is the evolution of high-mileage cars that can get upwards of 40 miles per gallon, if not more. The same can't be found in the trucking industry, however, according to Fowers. "Emissions regulations on trucks have made mileage go down and not up," she explained. Lower mileage means truckers actually pay more in taxes for roads, Fowers concluded.