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The Last Word

From Essential to Tax Target

By Johnathan Kennemer

For months, truckers were applauded for our nonstop efforts to keep the country moving despite the coronavirus pandemic. We were essential workers who kept critical supplies on the shelves and allowed other Americans to stay home and stay safe. It wasn’t easy to send drivers into the unknown, but at least the necessity of our industry was in the spotlight, understood and appreciated.

While the country continues to recover from the loss of lives and livelihoods, we’re trying to get our own house in order as we suffer the greatest driver shortage I’ve ever seen. Truckers were heroes carrying the first doses of life-saving vaccines not six months ago. Now, we are targets.

On May 18, during a House Finance Committee hearing on “Funding and Financing Options to Bolster American Infrastructure,” Texas Senator, my senator, John Coryn dismissed other ideas on the table (corporate tax increases or raising the fuel tax). His suggestion was a truck-only vehicle miles traveled tax. He proposed a 25-cent-per-mile fee on most Class 7 and Class 8 trucks.

A company like mine can’t survive this kind of tax.

We are a proud Texas company, with 90% of our milage from over 350 trucks within the state. CKJ Transport is a family business that has grown from the single truck and a dream my dad had in 1981 out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We are one of almost 80,000 Texas trucking companies.

It would be devastating to lose the oil and construction customers we serve, the jobs we have created and my father’s dream realized, but Sen. Cornyn’s proposals to make trucking pay for the roads everyone uses with a 25-cent VMT would close our doors. It’s just math. We have 350 trucks that each drive approximately 110,000 to 125,000 miles in a year, multiplied by Cornyn’s 25 cents per mile, that’s an extra $10 million in taxes.

Trucking companies are not running on $10 million margins.

A heavy tax on trucks to pay for infrastructure will only result in skyrocketing inflation. To stay open, companies would have to start passing those costs onto shippers. The cost of every item carried on a truck will increase significantly. In Texas, 80% of communities depend on trucks to deliver all of their goods.

Owner-operators would face even steeper challenges if that segment of the industry could survive at all. Drivers with their own trucks might see their tax bills increase by $30,000 a year. For these independent drivers, small businesses or even large operations, this will damage the supply chain and upend the industry that the country depends on.

I’m sympathetic to Sen. Cornyn’s desire to present a solution. The problem is dire. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the Highway Trust Fund, currently supported by a stagnant fuel tax, will be empty in 2022. Congress is under pressure to reauthorize federal highway programs before they expire on Sept. 30, 2021. As leadership looks for ways to fund raise, all the options seem politically unpopular.

Unfortunately, Sen. Cornyn is not the only one with this dangerous idea. At the state-level, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont just signed a new law to tax all trucks 2.5-17.5 cents per mile in the state depending on the vehicle weight.

A user fee is not a bad way to pay for highways, but when my trucks deliver sand, cement and gravel to construction sites or cross the state with pipe for an oilfield, they are not alone on the road. Trucks are not the only users. We are ready to pay…alongside our 4-wheel neighbors.

Jonathan Kcnnemer is the president and CEO of CKJ Transport, a McKinney-based trucking company. He serves as Chair of the Texas Trucking Association.

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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