Increase truck taxes
The trucking industry pays a variety of different taxes to support the HTF. In 2007 about $3.8 billion was raised through a12percent federal sales tax onthe retailer's sales price for tractors over 33,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW) and trailers over 26,000 GVW. Another $1 billion was raised through the federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, which requires trucks with a GVW of 55,000 pounds or more to pay an annual tax of $100, plus $22 for each 1,000 pounds over 55,000 pounds. This tax is justified in part because it helps to recover some of the system damage costs caused by heavier vehicles. The remaining $500 million was raised through a federal excise tax on tires, which charges 9.45 for each 10 pounds of maximum rated load over 3,500 pounds. In addition, trucks pay a tax on diesel fuel, which raised $10.1 billion.
To raise funds needed for expanded investment, Congress should double the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT) to account for the fact that it has not been increased since 1983 (doubling would recapture lost purchasing power) and then index the HVUT and the excise tax on truck tires to inflation going forward. The fact that this tax has not been increased since 1983 means that the trucking industry pays less in real terms each year, as its revenues increase every year due to inflation. Doubling the tax would raise approximately an additional $1 billion per year. In addition, if Congress does not want to increase fuel taxes (diesel and gas), then it should at least index them to inflation. For not doing this is to have a defacto policy of cutting the taxes road users pay every year.
If Congress does increase and, where relevant, index for inflation the current fees, including the diesel tax, truck tire taxes, and the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax-- and does not also increase the taxes paid by passenger vehicles, then a portion of these fees should be available only for freight-related investments, depending on the extent to which trucking does not currently pay its full share of system costs (as discussed below).
Enable truck-only toll lanes/roads
Significantly improving our nation's surface transportation infrastructure requires investment and that, by definition, is not free. Tolling can play a key role in generating the funding to pay for expanded capacity. While broad-based tolling to support new capacity expansion is required to improve mobility, especially if Congress does not increase funding for the Highway Trust Fund, there may be opportunities to develop truck-only toll lanes and/or roads. There are several steps Congress can take. First, Congress can require the federal Department of Transportation to structure the federal highway program so that it provides incentives for states to adopt tolling as a solution. Too many states do not want to support toll-funded projects because of fear of public opposition, despite the fact that toll projects are usually supported by the public after introduction. Lowering the share of federal funding for non-toll projects from its current 90 percent share, while funding the full 90 percent for toll projects would provide a stronger incentive for states to establish more toll projects. In addition, enabling truck-only toll lanes on the Interstate system will require Congress removing the restriction on tolling the Interstate or at minimum allowing additional capacity on Interstates to be tolled.