Oregon hit with lawsuit over truckers' 'disproportionate' highway taxes

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Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024:

Oregon Trucking Association, fleets suing state over highway taxes

The Oregon Trucking Association along with fleets A&M Transport, Sherman Bros. Trucking and Combined Transport are suing the state of Oregon and top Oregon officials, alleging that truckers are paying disproportionately more highway taxes in the state.

Oregon’s state constitution requires the state to impose taxes on vehicles to fund highway and road maintenance, which are required to be “fair and proportionate to the costs incurred for the highway system because of each class of vehicle.” Trucks over 26,000 pounds in Oregon pay a weight-mile tax, while passenger cars pay fuel taxes to fund the state’s infrastructure.

To ensure the taxes are fair and proportionate, the state legislature is required to biennially review and, if necessary, adjust revenue sources.

As such, every two years, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services is charged with conducting a Highway Cost Allocation Study (HCAS) to determine the proportionate share that heavy and light vehicle users should pay, as well as whether those users are paying that share.

From 2005-'17, the lawsuit claims that there was “near-perfect equity” between what light and heavy vehicle users were paying.

“For the past three study periods, however, heavy trucks have shouldered an increasing share of the burden,” the lawsuit alleges. In the 2019-'21 study, heavy vehicle users overpaid by approximately 3%, then 16% for 2021-'23. The most recent allocation study -- for years 2023-'25 -- had heavy vehicles overpaying by 32%.

“Each of these studies -- and subsequent presentations of these studies to, and by, governmental stakeholders -- have explicitly highlighted the inequitable burden on heavy vehicles,” the lawsuit alleges. The Oregon Department of Transportation reportedly estimated that for the 2023-'25 allocation study, heavy vehicles will overpay by $193 million per year, amounting to an overpayment of more than $528,000 each day. Yet, the lawsuit alleges, ODOT has continued to collect the “inequitable and unconstitutional taxes from heavy vehicle operators.”

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“For too long, Oregon trucking companies, the vast majority of which are small, family-owned businesses, have paid far more than their fair share of transportation taxes,” said OTA President and CEO Jana Jarvis. “By 2025, the trucking industry is expected to have overpaid by half a billion dollars. Trucking companies in Oregon simply cannot sustain paying the highest transportation taxes of any state in the country any longer.”

The lawsuit seeks a mandatory adjustment of revenue sources to ensure fairness and proportionality of vehicle taxes, an injunction to stop “unconstitutional weight and mile taxes” from taking effect in 2024, and for the trucking companies who brought the suit to entitled to recover damages of at least a combined $925,200.63.

[Related: Know the full extent of your costs before going independent]

Mexican driver busted in Alabama with hidden cocaine

An Alabama drug task force recently discovered 57 pounds of cocaine within a hidden compartment on a truck during a traffic stop.

Alabama cocaine drug bustThese packages of cocaine were found in an aftermarket hidden compartment on a truck on I-20/59 in West Alabama.17th Judicial Circuit Drug Task ForceOn Jan. 25, agents with the 17th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force in West Alabama initiated a traffic stop on an 18-wheeler on I-20/59 in Greene County. During the traffic stop agents noticed several indicators of criminal activity.

A search of the truck revealed a hidden aftermarket compartment that contained 26 kilos (57 pounds) of cocaine.

One male subject, who is a resident of Mexico, was arrested and charged with drug trafficking and operating a vehicle with a secret hidden compartment. The case is still under investigation.

[Related: Truck drivers among 10 arrested, 19 charged in international drug smuggling case]

Runaway truck ramp in Nevada closed until March

One of two truck escape ramps on eastbound U.S. 50 in Carson City, Nevada, is temporarily closed for maintenance as of Jan. 29.

The truck escape ramp on eastbound U.S. 50 near Golf Club Drive, located between the Lake Tahoe area and Carson City, will be closed through early March for maintenance. An additional neighboring truck escape ramp located near the U.S. 50 and U.S. 395 junction will remain available for emergency use.

Drivers can also anticipate shoulder closures and periodic single lane closures on eastbound U.S. 50 near Golf Club Drive weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the same time period.

The lane closures will allow trucks to safely enter and exit the truck ramp for maintenance.

This type of truck ramp uses specialty-sized, rounded gravel to effectively and safely slow runaway vehicles. The gravel within the truck bed will be removed and thoroughly cleaned to remove salt and sand that has accumulated over the years.

The truck escape ramp is one of multiple escape ramps across Nevada. The ramps are located adjacent to steep downgrades for out-of-control vehicles to slow and stop away from other vehicles more safely. Any vehicle experiencing braking problems can use a truck ramp.

[Related: Trucks barred from section of I-20]

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