Once again lawmakers in Connecticut have set their sights on the trucking industry as they search for an easy scapegoat to bail themselves out from the deep fiscal hole Hartford has dug itself into.

Nobody understands the importance of safe and modern infrastructure more than truckers, which is why the industry is leading the call in Washington D.C. and across the country for critically needed investment in our nation’s roads and bridges. And while we welcome honest debate about how best to fund highway infrastructure, we must first address two egregious falsehoods being advanced by pro-tolling advocates in Hartford.

The first is the notion that trucks don’t pay their “fair share.” Pro-tolling advocates claim trucks based out-of-state travel through Connecticut without paying for the roads they use. Leaders in the House Majority have been quoted saying trucks “pay nothing in Connecticut” and “that has to change.” But that is not true – and it demonstrates a stunning lack of knowledge about how interstate commerce works in the United States.

The fact is Connecticut annually takes in roughly $28 million from out-of-state trucks via the International Fuel Tax Agreement and International Registration Plan. These agreements between the lower 48 states (and Canadian provinces) distribute a truck’s fuel taxes and registration fees to each of the states a truck passes through, proportionally based on mileage. All commercial vehicles are required to participate in this arrangement.

The idea that tolling trucks will produce anywhere near the revenue Connecticut’s infrastructure requires is absurd.

In other words, every truck you see in Connecticut—regardless of whether its license plate says Arizona or Calgary—is paying Connecticut for every mile it travels in the state. And while trucks account for only 5% of vehicle miles traveled, they pay 32% of all taxes owed by Connecticut motorists.

The second falsehood is that trucks do “80% of damage” to highways. Pro-tolling advocates don’t cite a source for this claim, perhaps because there isn’t a valid one. According to the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board, “there are prevalent misconceptions trucks damage pavements more than passenger cars.” That’s because pro-tolling advocates have spread bogus statistics like this for years.

The National Academy of Sciences explains that when a highway is properly designed, it will not be damaged by the traffic it is designed to support. What highway engineers know and understand is that weather and the environment – warm no-freeze climates, freeze and thawing cycles, precipitation and subgrade soil – are the primary cause of highway deterioration. Add to that the fact that in Connecticut, the state sprays a chemical mix comprised of magnesium chloride and sodium chloride on our highways to melt ice and snow, which tears up not only our roads, but our cars and trucks as well.

There should be no doubt regarding the true cause of highway deterioration.

The motoring public should care about these falsehoods, because this shortsighted proposal of “truck-only” tolls will ultimately impact them as much as it impacts the trucking industry. The idea that tolling trucks will produce anywhere near the revenue Connecticut’s infrastructure requires is absurd — after all, that is the stated reason Gov. Ned Lamont first backed away from the idea months ago. But the costs of such a foolish policy will be felt immediately, far and wide.

Trucks are on our roads for good reason: to deliver the goods that we all demand and the quality of life we all enjoy. Virtually every product we touch, consume and rely on in our daily lives can be traced to the back of a truck. When the cost of truck transportation goes up, the cost of everything goes up. This means increased costs for Connecticut’s manufacturers, retailers, mom-and-pop shops, service providers, homebuilders, farmers and consumers.

It cannot be ignored that Connecticut’s current budget woes have been exacerbated by the state’s horrid business climate. It ranks among the worst states to start a business, and eight out of 10 Connecticut companies say the business climate is declining. For far too long, the policies coming out of Hartford have driven companies and countless jobs away to other, more hospitable states.

And now lawmakers want to target the economy’s supply chain and try to turn it into a piggy bank. This will further increase the cost of doing business in Connecticut and only deepen the state’s budget shortfalls in the long run.

Moreover, voters are wise to the fact that once toll gantries go up, they do not come down. Once politicians find a source of revenue, they only look to expand it. The likely scenario is the state spends millions to put up “truck-only” tolls, faces certain litigation in federal court over their constitutionality, falls well short of the revenue needed to pay back federal loans, and then simply extends the tolls to all vehicles.

Lawmakers in Hartford say they’re tired of hearing this proposal is a slippery slope. But the fact is slippery slopes are exactly what leads a state down into this kind of fiscal mess —with unfunded pension liabilities alone now totaling $38,000 per every resident.

The people of Connecticut should ask themselves this: if lawmakers decide to stand up “truck-only” tolls, how long will it be until they flip the switch to start tolling cars? Given Hartford’s well-documented history of budget mismanagement, there is good reason to worry.

Chris Spear is the President and CEO of the American Trucking Associations.

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14 Comments

  1. Further and substantial evidence that we are being conned by the Governor. If you stopped using plastic bags to save 10 cents, imagine how many companies are moving out to save their companies.

  2. These are the same Democrats that ignored our constitutional spending cap for 25 years! Does anyone think they are going to have a problem tolling cars? No one is that stupid. There is no support for tolls or Democrats would have voted on this a long time ago they don’t need Republicans permission – they never have. Gov. Lamont needs to reallocate 2% of the total budget to securing federal loans and we can move on to fixing the problem and creating 15-20K new jobs.

  3. The damage done to roads & bridges by any vehicle is proportional to the quality of the original construction of those roads & bridges. One of the challenges of this construction is doing it without major disruption to existing traffic using the infrastructure. People have little patience and expect work to be completed almost immediately – it doesn’t always happen that way. The public pressure to minimize disruption influences the quality of work.

    Now, that said, capable oversight of the construction is another matter. After observing a CT-DOT project at the end of my street over the Summer & Fall, and after having some interaction with the state-hired people overseeing the work, I have limited confidence in their ability to provide quality oversight AND keep up with the myriad of paperwork/documentation required by the CT-DOT.

    We CAN build for long-term durability – but it doesn’t happen instantly. Too often quality is affected by a desire to appease the masses as well as their political leaders.

  4. very interesting article. so what does the american trucking association recommend to fund the transportation program proposed by the governor?

    1. While I’m not involved with trucking, I do have a suggestion: let’s start with not diverting revenue that was SUPPOSED to fund transportation into the General Fund.

  5. I pretty much agree with all the article says EXCEPT for the claim that a 80000 pound truck does the same or less damage to a road then a 5000 pound car or truck.
    Thats just not possible!
    If you want to claim that the total number of cars and light trucks in total does more damage in comparison I would believe that.

    1. Roads and highways are designed for the heaviest vehicle anticipated to use them on a regular basis, so interstate roads would not have issues. The problem is many roads are not designed in this manner to save money and time (for the motoring public) and yes, these roads can be damaged by all types of traffic as the structural base of the road is not sufficient to support the design vehicle. Additionally, many of our roads are damaged because of inadequate drainage under them, when the gravel base becomes saturated, it allows the pavement to move up and down slightly when a vehicle drives over it. The more this occurs, the weaker the pavement layer becomes, it begins to crack and fall apart with even car traffic. When you see the top layer of pavement removed and then replaced, this is solely a cosmetic fix to the road, so everyone sees a nice, shiny and smooth road, but the underlying issues are rarely fixed. If the big issues were fixed properly (it would be more expensive upfront), there would be less maintenance required by DOT and long term costs would be less and the road would hold up for a much longer time. Look at I-84 around exit 9 to 10 eastbound, they milled the surface this summer, repaved the base layer to level the surface, then went and cut out spots of the pavement and replaced with concrete (original road was concrete according to DOT worker), but the finish course of pavement has not been put down (asphalt plants close about now), so this condition will exist into the spring. Water and chlorides from deicing agents will affect the structural integrity of the concrete and it is likely these areas will need further fixing in the spring at an additional cost.

      1. Hi Steven, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

    2. I’ve read the article several times and I did not find where the author made a “claim that a 80000 pound truck does the same or less damage to a road then a 5000 pound car or truck”. He does cite the National Academy of Sciences’ statement about “prevalent misconceptions” that trucks (plural) do more damage than passenger cars (plural), which was in response to prevalent falsehoods that trucks do “80% of the damage” to roads. There are indeed many more cars and light trucks on our roads than there are tractor trailers. So I think he was in fact making the comparison you say you could believe. And don’t forget, that 5000 pound car or truck has two axles and four tires. The weight of an 80000 pound (if/when fully loaded) big rig is spread out over multiple axles and 18 wheels.

  6. STop using the money that is allocated for the transportation fund elsewhere. Cut spending. We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

  7. Is there anyone gullible enough to fall for “we will only toll trucks, I promise”? Of course not. The Democratic legislators scoff at the “slippery slope” argument as if it’s ridiculous. But what’s ridiculous is the argument for truck-only tolls, and here’s why: Candidate Lamont, “We will toll trucks only, and we’ll have 81 gantries.” Governor Lamont, “Oops, my bad, trucks-only tolling won’t work, it won’t bring in enough money. We have to toll everybody, but 52 gantries.” Governor Lamont, “We are going to toll trucks only, at 14 bridges only.” And if the truckers win their lawsuit in Rhode Island federal court? Will Connecticut remove the toll gantries at those 14 bridges? If anyone believes that, I have a bridge to sell you.

  8. Thanks, some good points that I did not know. Out-of-state truckers are a “soft” target. They are few and they don’t vote (in Connecticut anyway), so it is the tyranny of the majority at work.

    The real issue is that we have a spending problem not a revenue problem. We have one of the most generous welfare programs in the contiguous USA and our state employees are paid up to 46% more than comparable private sector employees.

    If we simply brought the salaries and benefits of our state employees down to reasonable levels we would be able to keep our roads and bridges as good as our neighbors and still have no need for tolls. And if we tried to take some people off of welfare instead of focusing on “making poverty comfortable” there would’t be a pothole in the state.

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