This is in response to the recent opinions by Mark Scribner (“Tolls better than gas taxes; make truckers pay fair share”) and Gabriel Roth (“Get the federal government out of highway development”), who want to remove federal control of the Highway Trust Fund and allow states to collect tolls.
The idea of a “pay as you use it “ may sound appealing to those who don’t know better, especially when the convenience of technology is mentioned. But setting up an electronic collection system would not be free, and there are still many other problems with adding tolls.
But first let’s also make it very clear that truckers are not getting any tax breaks or subsidies. We actually pay more than anyone else into the Highway Trust Fund. Federal fuel taxes are higher for diesel.
Plus, we pay taxes other highway users do not, such as user fees and taxes on equipment and tires.
The registration fee for my truck is $2107.42 for one year, $985.75 just for New York. We also pay a $550 heavy highway use tax (form 2290) to the Internal Revenue Service every year.
New York also has an additional highway use tax. Truckers pay 5.46 cents a mile laden and 1.4 cents a mile unladen for every mile run on New York roads except on the New York Thruway, and tolls on the Thruway are much higher for trucks.
Tolls collected by individual states have been subject to massive diversions to other projects.
As a matter of fact, the funds collected right here in New York have gone to everything else but highways and bridges. Adding tolls is essentially double taxation and would be a unconscionable burden on everyone who uses highways and bridges.
Tolling could also prove to be unsafe, as truck drivers choose alternative routes to avoid paying tolls.
Fuel tax is still the most equitable and efficient way to pay for roads, as long as the revenue is used for just that, the roads.
Louis Esposito of Princetown is a member of the board of directors for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association and is a Princetown town councilman. The Gazette welcomes guest columns from readers. Send suggestions to Mark Mahoney, editorial page editor, at [email protected]