SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — While opinions might be mixed about the recently-passed $45 billion capital plan, the bill brought some relief to one sector of the state’s transportation economy.
“The No. 1 issue for us was repealing the commercial distribution fee, and that was included in the final bill that was passed in the House and in the Senate,” said Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association.
The commercial distribution fee has been a thorn in the side of the Illinois trucking industry since it was put into place.
The commercial distribution fee is a 14.35% tax imposed on registrations for vehicles over 8,001 pounds up to 80,000 pounds in Illinois. The state has reaped over $900 million, all of which has gone into the state’s General Revenue fund, since the fee was started.
It was a sticking point for the state’s trucking industry and trucking groups, and Hart said the fee would have to be repealed before his group would give its nod to any gas or diesel tax increase or any license and registration increase.
“At the end of the day, we felt like the capital bill that passed was very positive for the trucking industry,” he said.
The capital bill raised the state gasoline tax by 19 cents and the state’s tax on diesel by 24 cents. But one good thing is that money can no longer be “swept” by lawmakers for other pet projects and funds.
The bill also raises license fees on vehicles. Vehicles weighing 8,000 pounds or less will see a $50 annual increase in license plates, and all vehicles above 8,001 pounds will see a $100 increase, regardless of weight or class of vehicle. The repeal of the commercial distribution fee becomes effective July 1, 2020.
“The good thing about the increase in fuel taxes is 100% of the proceeds from the motor fuel tax, the lock box amendment that we passed in 2016, is all going to go for transportation purposes,” Hart said.
Truckers and their groups will be relieved to know that a congested stretch of I-80, over the Des Plaines River in Joliet, will get $1 billion under the bill to replace the bridges that carry I-80 over the Des Plaines River.
“One major area is Interstate 80 just south of Joliet, which has become a real bottleneck for the trucking industry. There is money in the capital bill to work on those bridges, expand capacity and really help make Interstate 80 a much safer highway,” Hart said.
Hart said that by repealing the commercial distribution fee, the state could become a more welcoming place for trucking companies.
“It sends a positive message to the trucking industry all across the country that Illinois is a great place to locate your trucking company,” Hart said.
With the commercial distribution fee gone, even with the license plate increase, truckers actually could see fees drop.
“For the semi trucks, for instance, their license plates are going to go up $100, but on an 80,000 pound plate, when the commercial distribution fee gets repealed, it goes down $400. So, starting in 2020, truck owners could see their license plates actually go down by $300,” Hart said.
Hart said while the big work is done in getting the commercial distribution fee repealed and a capital bill passed, the work continues to make sure that the projects that the capital bill will fund benefit truckers.
“We want to make sure that the funds, these additional funds, are going to places to benefit reducing congestion, improving safety and making sure, in the rural parts of the state, we’ve got bridges that can accommodate 80,000 pound trucks again. These are our top priorities, making sure we are improving our roads, expanding our roads and investing back into the Illinois economy,” Hart said.