The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982

OCE-84-2: Published: Apr 6, 1984. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO analyzed the potential economic impact on the commercial trucking industry of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982.

The act authorizes increased Federal spending for several major transportation programs, while raising and restructuring Federal highway taxes and changing weight and size limits for trucks using federally aided highways. GAO commented that the effect of this act on a particular motor carrier depends on: (1) the impact of higher taxes on that carrier's operating costs, (2) the ability of that carrier to increase its productivity, and (3) the carrier's ability to raise rates. These factors vary significantly among motor carriers in different segments of the commercial trucking industry; therefore, some carriers will be relatively better off. Specifically, GAO found that most of the tax increases affecting truck owners are attributable to a 5-cent-a-gallon increase in motor fuel excise taxes and increases in the annual highway use tax which is based on a truck's gross vehicle weight. GAO estimates show that owners of light trucks will experience relatively small or no tax increases, while heavy truck owners will experience tax increases of over $1,500 per truck, or more than $2.40 per mile traveled. Owner-operators of very heavy trucks objected to the annual-use tax, because it is based on gross vehicle weight rather than highway usage and because at least one-fourth of the tax must be paid at the start of a fiscal year.

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