Call to action: Now is the time for trucking to push FET repeal, new infrastructure funding

Updated Jan 29, 2021

It’s been a quiet few months for the American Truck Dealers (ATD) and their partners in the Modernize the Truck Fleet (MTF) coalition in their efforts to repeal the 12 percent federal excise tax on the first retail sale new heavy trucks and trailers.

ATD founded the MTF in January 2019 as part of its greater FET repeal initiative and for most of the spring the coalition steadily gained members and support within the trucking industry. The swearing in of the 116th United States’ Congress at the same time forced the industry and its congressional partners to reintroduce their FET repeal bills in both houses.

But, with a growing number of legislators publicly backing the bills and the White House’s vocal support of the trucking industry well known throughout Washington, many in the dealer channel felt at this time last year the industry was getting closer to repealing the 103-year-old tax than it had been in decades.

Jodie Teuton, vice president, Kenworth of Louisiana, and immediate ATD past chair, told Trucks, Parts, Service last May, “I’m not going to say if [we repeal FET], I’m going to say when; when we win this battle it’s going to be good for every one of us.”

Teuton’s optimism was shared by her ATD predecessor and successor, Steve Parker, president, Baltimore Potomac Truck Centers, and Steve Bassett, president, General Truck Sales, each of whom also spoke positively about the state of the FET repeal effort with TPS.

MTF Modernize the truck fleet logoSince those discussions little news has trickled out of the nation’s capital about FET, and with another election creeping ever closer, I’m beginning to fear the MTF coalition and the trucking industry are about to miss their latest, greatest chance to eradicate FET once and for all.

I believe that would be doubly unfortunate, not only because FET is an antiquated tax that is slowing the introduction of new fuel-efficient and low-emission trucks to U.S. roadways, but also because it has never been clearer that the Federal government needs a bipartisan win. And there is no lower hanging fruit than infrastructure legislation.

Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA) President and CEO Jake Jacoby told TPS last May bipartisan support exists for a new infrastructure bill and improvements to the Highway Trust Fund and American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear reiterated that belief at the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting last month.

So why is D.C. not jumping at the chance to pick up this easy win? *

Your guess is as good as mine. Regardless of what reasons legislators have for their procrastination, it seems clear to me if the trucking industry wants to get rid of FET and solve the nation’s Highway Trust Fund conundrum (the fund is expected to be insolvent by 2022), now is the time to speak up.

Every American relies on our roadways for basic goods and services, which means each and every one of us has a responsibility to tell our legislators that we won’t stand for inaction.

The MTF coalition has stated it is open to any adjustment to the trust fund that eliminates FET and the most popular replacement option thus far is a fuel tax increase. Spear said at TMC that a five cent increase per gallon per year “will get you $340 billion over for years,” which would far surpass the amount of money raised by FET during the same period.

The Highway Trust Fund is anticipated to become insolvent by 2022 if the federal government does not pass new infrastructure legislation to support it.The Highway Trust Fund is anticipated to become insolvent by 2022 if the federal government does not pass new infrastructure legislation to support it.

Whether you’re a truck dealer or an independent parts and service shop, I believe this is a strategy worth stumping for. Infrastructure investment has a strong positive correlation to economic development. The elimination of FET also would likely help jump start a new truck market that has been non-existent for nearly a year and, when strong, often enriches aftermarket sales opportunities.

There’s no guarantee calling your legislator today will create a chain reaction that finally ends the FET debate tomorrow, but it couldn’t hurt. I know I sure don’t want to think about the alternative.

* Editor’s Note: This article was completed Tuesday, before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic began altering daily American life. It appears likely Congress will be focused on addressing the pandemic for the immediate future.

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