A tax break for safety?

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National Accounting and Finance Council of the American Trucking Associations unveiled an online resource, the Online State Tax Guide, which converts the State Tax Guide from a 600-page tariff-style publication to an online database. The guide allows members to research state and local tax questions and review trucking-related tax laws; it also contains relevant tax forms and tables. For more information, visit www.nafctax.com.

Trade using surface transportation between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 3.1 percent higher in December 2007 than in December 2006, reaching $60.9 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the Department of Transportation. The value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico fell 13.4 percent in December from November.

Fleet One (www.fleetone.com) entered into a multiyear contract with TransCard (www.transcard.com) to offer a Fleet One-branded driver settlement card that fleets can issue to drivers, allowing them to manage their personal funds. The process integrates seamlessly into the employer’s existing direct deposit process.

Internal Revenue Service issued guidance regarding the proper pooling treatment of automobiles, light-duty trucks and crossover vehicles that have characteristics of trucks and cars under the dollar-value, last-in, first-out inventory method. For more information, visit www.irs.gov and search for “Revenue Procedure 2008-23.”

Groups representing commercial vehicle law enforcement and manufacturers of aftermarket safety systems in late February called on Congress to pass legislation (H.R. 3820) that would encourage the installation of safety-related technology. The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said quick passage of a tax break could provide fleet owners with the necessary incentive to install safety devices on their trucks, tractors and trailers once truck sales rebound.

At a Feb. 25 press conference 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 cost increases, safety equipment was often not the most urgent priority for carriers fighting to stay in business.

The general business tax credit provided in H.R. 3820 would equal half the cost of the installed safety systems up to $1,500 per device, $3,500 per vehicle and $350,000 per carrier. The bill defines “qualified commercial vehicle advanced safety system” as a manufacturer-certified brake stroke monitoring system, lane departure warning system, collision warning system or vehicle stability system identified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as significantly enhancing the safety or security of commercial drivers, vehicles or passengers. The tax break would end after 2012.

The legislation, 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. For more information, visit http://thomas.loc.gov and search bill number H.R. 3820 under “Search Bill Text.”
– John Latta