FMCSA finalizes UCR fees

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Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said that trucking companies do not have to pay a tax bill the agency mistakenly mailed. The notices were for a $5 per-vehicle fee that the Legislature eliminated in its session earlier this year as part of the impending transition to the Unified Carrier Registration Plan.

The independent special committee of the U.S. Xpress board of directors announced Aug. 7 that it had retained Wachovia Securities as its financial adviser to assist in its evaluation of the proposed unsolicited tender offer by Mountain Lake Acquisition Co., a company owned by the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based carrier’s co-chairmen Patrick Quinn and Max Fuller.

Internal Revenue Service announced following a quarterly review that purchasers of qualified Nissan North America Inc. hybrid vehicles may continue to claim the alternative motor vehicle credit. The allowable credit amount for the 2007 Altima Hybrid – Nissan’s only certified hybrid vehicle – is $2,350.

PHH FirstFleet and Wright Express Corp. introduced a branded fleet fuel card for PHH FirstFleet customers for use at more than 180,000 fuel and vehicle maintenance locations. Customized by PHH FirstFleet for its client base, the Wright Express card program offers convenience, consolidated billing, comprehensive reporting, fraud control and cost management capabilities, the companies say.

Motor carriers will pay between $39 and $37,500, depending on fleet size, under a final fee schedule for the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) Plan and Agreement. In the Aug. 24 Federal Register, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration adopted without change its proposed UCR fee schedule, effective immediately.

In August 2005, Congress ordered that the UCR Plan replace the Single State Registration System (SSRS) Plan by Jan. 1, 2007. Because the SSRS expired on that date, FMCSA expedited its consideration of the UCR fees so states could replace the revenue as soon as possible. Legislation enacted by Congress just before its August recess this year temporarily reinstates the SSRS, but now that FMCSA has adopted the final UCR fee regulations, states participating in the UCR Plan and Agreement likely will adopt the UCR fees instead.

The proposed schedule, which is the total amount to be paid by the company, is as follows:

· 0 to 2 power units, as well as brokers and leasing companies – $39

· 3 to 5 power units – $116

· 6 to 20 power units – $231

· 21 to 100 power units – $806

· 101 to 1,000 power units – $3,840

· 1,001 and above – $37,500

The fees would raise about $107.3 million in fiscal 2007, all but $5 million of which would go to participating states to replace SSRS revenues. The remaining $5 million goes for administrative expenses of the UCR Plan.

Under the 2005 law, the UCR Plan is an organization that will administer the UCR Agreement – an interstate agreement governing the collection and distribution of registration and financial responsibility information provided and fees paid by motor carriers, motor private carriers, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies.

Thirty-eight states participated in the SSRS last year, and all but California and North Carolina will participate in the UCR this year. In addition, Oregon, which did not participate in the SSRS last year, will participate in the UCR.

For a copy of FMCSA’s final rule, visit http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 27871.


IRS issues plan for priority tax guidance
The Internal Revenue Service recently issued its 2007-2008 Priority Guidance Plan, reflecting the most important tax-related items for which the IRS plans to issue additional guidance, interpretations and regulations from July 2007 through June 2008.

Most of the priority items that relate specifically to segments of the trucking and bus industries involve excise taxes. Priority topics include:

· Guidance under sections 4051 and 4071 on heavy trucks, trailers, tractors and tires to update current regulations and to reflect recent statutory changes, including changes made by the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004;

· Proposed regulations under sections 4081-4083 and 6427 on fuel tax provisions added or affected by the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004; the Energy Policy Act; the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act; and the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006;

· Final regulations under section 4082, as amended by the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, on diesel fuel and kerosene that is dyed by mechanical injection. Temporary regulations were published on April 26, 2005;

· Update of existing regulations and rulings regarding the tax on the retail sale of trucks, tractors and trailers under sections 4051-4053. Current guidance is in temporary regulations, regulations under section 4061 and numerous revenue rulings;

· Guidance under section 4481, as amended by the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, related to electronic filing of highway use tax returns and the proration of tax when vehicles are sold;

· Guidance on the eligibility of the credit or payment allowed for fuel used in certain buses described in sections 6421(b) and 6427(b);

· Guidance under section 6426(d)(2)(F) – as added by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – to define “liquid hydrocarbon derived from biomass” for purposes of the definition of alternative fuel and the credit and payment allowable for alternative fuel mixtures; and

· Proposed regulations under sections 40, 40A, 6426 and 6427 on fuel tax provisions added or affected by the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004; the Energy Policy Act; and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, including issues that are related to alcohol fuels, biodiesel, renewable diesel and alternative fuel.

For a copy of the 2007-2008 Priority Guidance Plan, visit www.irs.gov/pub/irsutl/2007-2008pgp.pdf.


Bridge collapse sparks fuel tax debate
In the wake of the collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis last month, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, plans to introduce a bill that would raise $25 billion over three years to repair or replace old bridges. On Aug. 8, Oberstar discussed the possibility of a 3-cent to 5-cent increase in the federal fuel tax and a per-barrel crude oil tax to provide that money.

The ultimate source and amount of the bridge funding hasn’t been determined, but a fuel tax increase “is very likely some component,” said Jim Berard, communications director for the transportation committee. September, when Congress returns, is the earliest Oberstar could introduce the legislation.

However, President Bush said Congress should prioritize highway spending instead of raising the fuel taxes. “The Public Works Committee is the largest committee – one of the largest committees in the House of Representatives,” the president said at an Aug. 9 White House press conference. “From my perspective, the way it seems to have worked is that each member on that committee gets to set his or her own priority first, and then whatever is left over is spent through a funding formula.”
– Jill Dunn


DOL hits mail hauler over back wages
The U.S. Department of Labor filed an administrative complaint against Woodland Hills, Calif.-based mail hauler Alan Berman Trucking to recover $1,369,870 in back wages for 80 current and former employees. The complaint also seeks debarment of the company and its principals from government contracts for three years. Investigators found violations on eight contracts where the company treated the drivers as independent contractors, requiring that they use their own trucks and assume all costs. Alan Berman Trucking had about $10 million in mail hauling contracts with the U.S. Postal Service subject to the Service Contract Act (SCA), the department says.