Among the bills introduced on Capitol Hill right before Congress headed out for the election recess was one that would repeal the 12 percent federal excise tax on heavy trucks and trailers, and replace it with a 7.3-cents-per-gallon diesel tax increase.
New bill would cut costs for equipment acquisition. (Photo by Deborah Lockridge)
New bill would cut costs for equipment acquisition. (Photo by Deborah Lockridge)

In introducing H.R. 6312, the Heavy Truck Fairness Act. U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said that "new trucks have significant environmental and safety advantages, and Congress should reduce the barriers to new truck acquisition."

The bill also could help stimulate investment in other truck-related technologies. In addition to taxing trucks, tractors and trailers, the FET applies to safety technologies such as rollover prevention systems, and forward collision and lane departure warning systems, the American Trucking Associations pointed out in its Truckline newsletter. The FET also applies to equipment designed to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions such as trailer aerodynamics and lighter-weight tractors and trailers.

The American Truck Dealers association praised the legislation.

"ATD commends Congressman Blumenauer for taking the initiative to try and improve new truck sales. As truck prices have increased, so have excise taxes and it has become a barrier for some new truck buyers," said Kyle Treadway, ATD chairman and president of Kenworth Sales Co. in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"Rather than relying on FET revenue, which fluctuates according to new truck sales, ATD supports instituting a more stable and consistent source of revenue for the highway trust fund through higher diesel taxes," Treadway said.

This is not the only last-minute bill that would raise the fuel tax. Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would create a Goods Movement Trust Fund funded in part by a 12-cent hike in the diesel tax. Richardson's bill, The Freight Focus Act of 2010, stipulates that any money raised from only a single mode would be dedicated to projects that benefit that mode.

The Obama administration has repeatedly said that it is against any increases in the fuel tax. As Secretary Ray LaHood told a House Committee this summer, "We have almost 10 percent unemployment in America. People can little afford to buy a gallon of gasoline, let alone if we raise the tax on it. I do not advocate and the administration does not advocate raising the gas tax."