Leasing a hybrid? Get your rebate

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Environmental Protection Agency set up a website, www.smartwayfinancecenter.com, to assist owner-operators and small trucking companies with financing for SmartWay-approved technologies to save fuel and reduce pollution. EPA and iBank created a standardized application form that will be circulated to all private-sector lending institutions in the applicant’s area. Products eligible for Smart Way financing include idle-reduction technologies, aerodynamics, wheels and tires, and fuel-efficient tractors and trailers.

Wright Express Corp. (www.wrightexpress.com) announced that its Accounts Payables Direct e-payables application is available to help companies streamline accounts payable operations and manage vendor relationships without changing current accounts payable processes or software. Wright Express says it added Accounts Payable Direct to its MasterCard product suite to help accounts payable departments fast-track payments to vendors, reduce the number of paper checks, limit fraud and maintain complete control over the payment process.

FTR Associates, a provider of transportation and logistics research and advisory services, launched a new Web-based research portal for its clients at www.ftrassociates.com. FTR’s services are designed to help its clients better understand the current economic, freight and transportation equipment environment, and to help identify where these industries are headed in the future.

GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services has announced what it calls an industry-first hybrid rebate program for companies that lease hybrid vehicles. The program is designed for customers that make significant investments in new technology aimed at improving their environmental performance.

Since the Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2005 became law, GE says there has been confusion about how it relates to commercial vehicle fleets. Nearly $875 million of the Act’s $14.5 billion is reserved for advanced vehicular technology projects such as hybrid tax credits. Despite this, leasing companies have been waiting for additional guidance from the IRS, according to GE. “While it’s unclear what may happen with future hybrid incentive programs from the IRS, we wanted to put a program together that would help our customers today,” says Robert Kruger, commercial tax leader for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services.

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GE says the program processes a rebate back to hybrid lease customers in a simple, straightforward manner. The IRS sets the vehicle-specific credit amounts and OEM-specific phase-out requirements; based on IRS regulations, GE Capital Solutions says it tracks eligible vehicles for its customers by utilizing PricewaterhouseCoooper’s Like Kind Exchange Services group to calculate the hybrid credit based on eligible vehicles as reported by Polk’s VIN validation service. GE Capital Solutions says it provides the allocated rebate to its customers and does not charge an additional administrative fee for the service. Based on this program, GE says it approved more than $2.2 million in hybrid rebates for its customers in 2007.

“We’re always looking for ways to make technology adoption easier for our customers, and this new program is an important step,” says John Righini, chief marketing officer for GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services. “Hybrids aren’t the only way to boost a fleet’s environmental performance, but they can make a huge impact. Helping our customers by making that impact more affordable is another way we show our support for their efforts to improve their environmental performance, and we look forward to implementing additional initiatives that will help our customers go green.”

GE says it also is working with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop smaller lower-cost higher-performing drivetrain motors for hybrid-electric vehicles, recognizing this technology as a vital aspect in helping commercialize “plug-in” hybrid vehicles. GE says it also is developing capacitors with higher power density and higher temperature capability; this helps reduce the vehicle’s size, cost and weight, and also improves performance.

NAFTA trade up in February
Trade using surface transportation between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 16.3 percent higher in February 2008 than in February 2007, reaching $69.4 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico rose 6.5 percent in February from January; month-to-month changes can be affected by seasonal variations and other factors. Surface transportation consists largely of freight movements by truck, rail and pipeline; about 90 percent of U.S. trade by value with Canada and Mexico moves on land.

U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $45.0 billion in February, up 18.1 percent compared to February 2007. The value of imports carried by truck was 7.1 percent higher in February 2008 than February 2007, while the value of exports carried by truck was 10.2 percent higher. Michigan led all states in surface trade with Canada in February with $6.5 billion.

U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $24.4 billion in February, up 13.3 percent compared to February 2007. The value of imports carried by truck was 10.0 percent higher in February 2008 than February 2007, while the value of exports carried by truck was 12.5 percent higher. Texas led all states in surface trade with Mexico in February with $7.6 billion.

The TransBorder Freight Data are a unique subset of official U.S. foreign trade statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau; new data are tabulated monthly, and historical data are not adjusted for inflation. February TransBorder numbers include data received by BTS as of April 10.

Illinois to continue refunds
The Illinois Department of Revenue reversed its decision about suspending the payment of refunds of motor fuel tax paid for fuel used in nonhighway purposes. IDOR, which had contended that the refund provision should have ceased on Dec. 31, 2005, suspended the processing of RMFT 11-A forms and removed the form from its website. But the Mid-West Truckers Association and other groups contended that IDOR did not have the authority to sunset the refund mechanism, unlike many other provisions of the state revenue code. IDOR Director Brian Hamer said he accepted those arguments and would again allow the refunds to be filed, processed and paid.

Truck operators with power-takeoffs, reefers, cement and garbage trucks, well drillers, fertilizer spreaders and others are able to apply for MFT refunds. IDOR refunds were upwards of $6 million for taxes paid on nonhighway diesel fuel during the last year, according to the Mid-West Truckers Association.