Monday, May 4, 2009

More people should learn trucker math

How many people know exactly what they pay in taxes at the pump or where their fuel taxes go?

While everyone has the free will to look up the answers to those and other pertinent questions, chances are that most people don’t. In many ways, the motoring public lives under a gas-and-go rock.

Increases in the price of fuel can be a wake-up call for some, but not everyone sits down and does trucker math.

Trucker math? What’s that? Perhaps if a few more people thought about their transportation costs the way truckers do each day, they would have a better understanding of how and by how much they are taxed.

Trucker math could be beneficial whenever our lawmakers propose tax increases or new ways to generate revenue. Is a tax increase good? Is it bad? What would it pay for? Again, trucker math.

There’s a discussion happening on Capitol Hill that could cause a whole lot more people to learn some trucker math. It’s called VMT.

Some lawmakers believe that a tax on vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, would generate revenue even as fuel consumption decreases.

So far, VMT has been studied in states like Oregon, but the U.S. Congress has a ways to go to develop a collection system and prove to the public that personal privacy won’t be compromised.

But make no mistake. If a VMT were to become a reality someday, and people were forced to think about taxes by the mile, more people on the highways would learn to do trucker math.

Think of your cell phone bill. You pay a flat rate and if you go over, you pay by the call. With VMT, you would pay a flat rate per month or per year, and by the mile if you go over a certain number.

There are those who believe a VMT tax would replace the fuel tax, but history tells us that taxes rarely get rolled back once they are on the books. Therefore, the likelihood of overlap in the taxing mechanisms would be realistic, if not likely. Would double taxation make more people take notice?

At any rate, I think a VMT tax would lead to more people learning the same math that truckers use each day to survive.