Truckstop Group Wins Key Issues

NATSO, the trade association representing truckstop and travel plaza operators, gained a key legislative victory in late November when Congress rejected a proposed rider to the transportation appropriations bill that would have allowed California to commercialize interstate rest areas. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) authored the proposal.

Rest area commercialization has been a key issue for the truckstop group for a number of years. NATSO argues such commercialization would increase prices for travelers and threaten existing highway service businesses.

In a statement released Nov. 30, NATSO President W. Dewey Clower said, “With our nation in an economic recession, it just didn’t make any sense for Congress to adopt a plan that would have destroyed an industry employing over 100,000 Californians.”

According to a study prepared for NATSO by the University of Maryland, businesses located at freeway interchanges would lose 60 to 70 percent of their business if rest areas or other right-of-way locations were commercialized.

In another victory, NATSO said the U.S. Customs Service had revoked permission for a Detroit-area business to expand its duty-free business to include gasoline and diesel fuel. For NATSO, it came down to a fairness issue, and the association had lobbied the administration and Congress heavily on the issue during the group’s annual governmental affairs conference last May.

Truckstop operators claimed the duty-free shop was selling diesel fuel cheaper than they could buy it at the terminal rack where taxes are levied, creating an unfair trade situation.

“It’s just a matter of fairness,” Steve Bedwell of the Te-Khi Travel Court in Battle Creek, Mich., told Truckers News in May. “I don’t like fuel taxes anyway, but if we have to have them, everyone should pay them.”

“In this decision, federal officials clearly recognize that motor fuels are different from other merchandise sold at duty-free shops,” Clower said in a statement released Nov. 28. But the fight was not over, as the owner of the Michigan shop was expected to appeal Customs’ decision.

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NATSO wants Congress to pass legislation that closes the duty-free motor fuels loophole. NATSO members reported a tremendous amount of support among lawmakers for legislation preventing the duty-free sale of motor fuel. “We are very confident that Congress will close this loophole in the very near future,” Clower said.