Pennsylvania: New and higher tolls, but no lease

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FedEx Freight reduced its standard LTL fuel surcharge 25 percent, effective July 23. In addition, FedEx National LTL, the long-haul LTL company recently formed, reduced its standard LTL fuel surcharge to levels commensurate with FedEx Freight.

Progressive Commercial Auto (website) announced several new coverage options for the trucking market, including a 500-mile radius on liability, comprehensive and seasonal coverage for all vehicles, and a single physical damage deductible for losses that involve multiple insured vehicles.

Wright Express (website) has launched a Private Label Enhanced Acceptance feature, allowing the company’s private label relationships to open up their cards for service at selected Wright Express- accepting merchants. The program is launching with five national service merchants, including Sears, Pep Boys, Cross Country, Valvoline and Bridgestone/Firestone.

The Internal Revenue Service has certified two Mazda 2008 vehicles as meeting the requirements for hybrid motor vehicle tax credits. The two-wheel-drive Mazda Tribute hybrid qualifies for a $3,000 credit, while the four-wheel-drive version qualifies for a $2,200 credit. Taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th vehicle. After that, a progressively reduced credit is allowed.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell on July 18 signed into law a bill that would add tolls to Interstate 80 – assuming the state gets federal approval to do so – and increase tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But while the trucking community may not like the new and higher tolls, fleet owners can take consolation from the fact that Rendell dropped his earlier push to lease the turnpike to private entities.

Under a $1 billion transportation spending act, turnpike tolls will increase 25 percent in 2009 and 3 percent annually after that. Tolls on I-80, if approved, would be in line with turnpike tolls, said Barry Ciccocioppo, a Rendell spokesman. Cut from the bill was a plan to study tolls on I-95 as well.

The new law creates a Public Transportation Trust Fund, which will draw from sales and other taxes, lottery proceeds and turnpike revenues. Over the next 10 years, the law is expected to make $532 million available for bridge and road repairs and $414 million available for public transit.

“Despite our record investments in highways and bridges in the past four years, Pennsylvania has nearly 6,000 structurally deficient bridges – the highest number of any state – and more than 8,500 miles of roads that are in need of repair,” said Rendell.

Federal approval for tolls on I-80 appear to be a longshot. The U.S. House of Representatives voted July 24 to block tolling on I-80.

Trucking groups seek tax breaks for APUs
The American Trucking Associations and the Canadian Trucking Alliance both have urged state governments in the United States and provincial governments in Canada to revise their fuel tax systems to encourage truckers to use environmentally friendly idling-reduction technology. In a joint statement issued July 17, the top executives for both organizations asked International Fuel Tax Association member jurisdictions to stop taxing fuel used to operate idling-reduction technology, mainly the auxiliary power unit that reduces diesel fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by large truck engines. The IFTA is the organization of states and provinces through which motor carriers’ fuel use-tax obligations are administered uniformly throughout North America.

“The use of idling-reduction technology could reduce the fuel consumption of a long-haul tractor by some 1,900 gallons or 7,200 liters per year – which equates to an emissions reduction of greenhouse gases of some 42,000 pounds or 19 metric tons,” says David Bradley, CTA chief executive officer. “The tax system has a role to play in accelerating the use of this emissions-saving technology.”

The cost of an APU varies with the type of device, with an average of about U.S. $7,750. Likewise, the fuel consumption of an APU will vary, but may be estimated for an over-the-road operation at 500 gallons or 1,900 liters a year. At the average state fuel tax rate of about 22 cents per gallon and provincial rate of 15 cents a liter, an exemption would represent a tax savings of more than $100 (C$280) annually, according to the organizations.

“Coupled with operational savings, this is a significant incentive for installing an APU,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Governments have a role in regulating emissions reductions from the trucking community, but the public sector must also recognize its role in providing the business community with incentives to further reduce these emissions.”

ATA and CTA have invited the states and provinces to meet with national staff of the trucking associations or with local associations to provide more insight into the environmental benefits associated with this proposed tax change.

GATS Fleet Forum to focus on risk
The theme of the 2007 Fleet Forum at the Great American Trucking Show is “Managing Risk in an Unforgiving Climate.” The Fleet Forum, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23, features a keynote address by NFL great Kenny Stabler, who will discuss the dynamics of teamwork. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Deputy Administrator David Hugel has been invited to discuss the latest from Washington.

Henry Seaton, a partner in the law firm Seaton & Husk, will discuss how motor carriers can reduce financial risk in their contracts with shippers and brokers. Mike Bassett, principal of The Bassett Firm, will address lowering risk in the context of accident liability. Jeff Davis, vice president of safety and human resources for Dayton, Ohio-based Jet Express, will present his case for early and frequent intervention with problem drivers to reduce both risk and turnover.

For more information, go to this site.