Dear Magnificent Mileage Maven: The information you recently provided about traffic on Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Memphis is quite interesting. I tabulated the data in a spreadsheet. While the average truck traffic for the three locations increased, the average car traffic decreased. Why? Is it because motorists take other routes to avoid being on the highway with all those trucks? What does the state do to account for this greatly increased truck traffic? Do fuel taxes keep up with the increased wear and tear on the interstates? -- Carl
Dear Carl: You made a spreadsheet? You must be retired. Please take up golf. If we have to suffer, you should, too.
Let's review some of that data.
In 2001 at Lonoke, 30,000 vehicles went by per day, of which 43% (12,900) were trucks.
In 2018 at Lonoke, 37,000 vehicles went by per day, of which 57% (21,090) were trucks.
So traffic increased, the percentage of trucks increased as well, and car traffic decreased.
Why the latter, we can't say, but are open to conjecture by people smarter than we are. Quoting Yoda: "Many, they are."
But we do have some data from "American Trucking Trends, 2019," from the American Trucking Association. Chapter 5 is elegantly titled "Taxes." Data is presented in three charts.
The first chart is federal highway-user taxes. It shows the trucking industry, nationally, paid $17.7 billion in such taxes in 2017. About two-thirds were in diesel and gasoline taxes.
The second chart is state highway-user taxes. In Arkansas, that sum was $267,212,000. Again, about two-thirds were in fuel taxes.
The third chart is state highway-user taxes on a typical 5-axle tractor semitrailer. In Arkansas, that total was $5,221.
Please note that Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law this year that increases wholesale sales taxes on gasoline by 3 cents to 24.5 cents a gallon. And on diesel fuel by 6 cents a gallon to 28.5 cents a gallon. The increases take effect Oct. 1.
You ask if fuel taxes keep up with wear and tear on the interstates. That is, at its essence, a political question because the resources come from taxes. The Legislature and the governor answered this year.
But there's more. See below.
Dear Mahatma: Before the Arkansas Department of Transportation raises the speed limits, they should fix the roads. Interstate 40 in western Arkansas is pothole heaven. -- David
Dear David: Back in March, the Legislature chose to refer to the voters a proposed constitutional amendment.
The amendment would make permanent a 0.5% sales tax that voters approved in 2012 for a 10-year period. The tax is projected to raise about $205 million more a year for highways and $44 million more a year each for cities and counties.
Love this tax? Hate this tax? Make a choice in November 2020.
Metro on 08/24/2019