Safety devices merit tax break, makers say

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By John Latta

Congress has been urged to rapidly pass a bill that its promoters say will save a significant number of lives on American roads by making truck drivers and their tractors and trailers safer.

The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance are urging Congress to hurry to give a tax break to carriers that install approved safety devices on their tractors and trailers.

At a press conference Tuesday, Feb. 25, in Washington, D.C., companies who make the devices argued that providing tax incentives to carriers would save lives by significantly accelerating the rate at which the equipment became available on trucks and trailers. Without tax incentives, they argued, a tight economy might significantly delay the adoption of such devices in large numbers of trucks.

Companies represented at the press briefing included Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Iteris, Meritor WABCO and MGM Brakes.

“Coming to Washington would not be our first choice,” said Ron Parker, president of MGM Brakes. “Working out in the market would be our first choice. But that is not working as far as the heavy-duty truck and trailers market is concerned.”

Company executives said hard times for the trucking industry had not lessened carrier interest in the devices, but with $100-a-barrel oil and other major cost increases, safety equipment was often not the most urgent priority for carriers fighting to stay in business. A tax break making the equipment cheaper would help arm more trucks with the safety devices more quickly, they said.

The tax credit provided in the bill, H.R. 3820, would equal half the cost of the installed devices up to $1,500 per device, $3,500 per vehicle and $350,000 per carrier.

Approved systems include a brake stroke monitor, lane departure alarms, collision alarms (including blind spot alarms) and a vehicle stabilizer.

The bill, introduced in October 2007 and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, is sponsored by Rep. Michael Thompson, D-Calif. It is technically known as the Commercial Motor Vehicle Advanced Safety Technology Tax Act. More details, including the entire text, are available at this link.