California ponders higher trucking fees
Aug 22, 2003 12:00 PM, By Sean KilcarrTruckers in California are bracing for a double-whammy from the state government: a tripling of the Vehicle License Fee along with a proposed 42% weight fee increase for trucks of more than 10,000 pounds GVW.
"This is going to be tough for all of California's truckers, but it's going to kill owner-operators out here," said Stephanie Williams, vice-president of the California Trucking Association (CTA).
Those fee increases are partly the result of California's attempt to deal with a $38 billion budget deficit as well as inaccurate fiscal forecasting by the state's Department of Finance (DOF), she said. The DOF projected that truck registrations would increase in California; instead, they fell dramatically.
According to CTA, intrastate registrations dropped to 423,000 in 2002 from 656,000 in 1999, while California-based interstate truck registrations fell to 44,359 in 2002 from 61,000 in 1999.
Registrations are falling because the economic fallout from the attacks of September 11, the West Coast port lockout, and the sluggish national economy„conditions the DOF didn't factor into its projections, said CTA.
"You can't arbitrarily project an increase in truck registrations during a recession," said Williams. "Truckers need more freight to register more trucks. We shouldn't be penalized when the economy slows down."
Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association , said that while he can sympathize with California's need to close its budget gap, putting an inordinate burden on truckers isn't the way to do it.
"We think it's really distressing what California is doing," he said. "This is an industry that is very sensitive to costs. The reality is that there are too many trucks chasing too little freight today, and that's bidding freight rates down„and higher fees will affect every trucker out there."
Williams said DOF's solution to its revenue overprojection is to tax the trucks that still remain in the state. That's driving many operators to bordering states, which are now marketing themselves to trucking companies to gain their jobs and tax revenue.
"Imposing a 42% increase at this time will be devastating to the California trucker," she said. "We already compete at a disadvantage, and operating from outside the state is starting to make more sense than staying here."