Overweight trucks might be paying more for freight | AspenTimes.com

Overweight trucks might be paying more for freight

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” With the Western Slope oil and gas boom increasing heavy truck traffic, a government advisory panel looking for ways to maintain Colorado’s highways is considering raising fees and fines for overweight trucks.

Federal law allows trucks up to 80,000 pounds on all interstates and federal bridges, while Colorado permits trucks up to 85,000 pounds on state roads. Truckers hauling greater weights need permits that help pay for the extra damage done to the state’s roads.

An audit last year found that most of Colorado’s fees and fines haven’t been adjusted since the 1980s and are among the lowest in the country.

“We need to make sure those vehicles are paying their share for the use of the infrastructure,” said state treasurer Cary Kennedy, who sits on a highway funding committee that’s advising Gov. Bill Ritter’s transportation task force. The state Transportation Department supports higher fees.

Kennedy said the issue arose partly because Western Slope residents told task force members they’re concerned about the impact of increased truck traffic on their roads and partly because each year a small slice of the state’s highway fund goes to subsidize the operation of the state’s ports of entry.

Ten fixed ports and ten mobile units weigh trucks entering the state and check their compliance with other regulations.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the ports took about $6 million from the $787.3 million highway users trust fund, which is supported by fuel taxes and vehicle fees paid by drivers.

That’s less than 1 percent of the fund but, with the state looking to make up a projected $48 billion revenue shortfall to cover road repairs and construction through 2030, every bit helps. Increasing fees could make the ports of entry self-sufficient, leaving more money for road maintenance. Last year, $687.2 million of the fund was budgeted for road repairs, whether by the state, counties or cities.

As it is, task force member Bob Tointon said the state’s fuel tax, last increased in 1991, isn’t keeping pace with the cost of road repairs. The 20.5 cent tax on diesel fuel was last increased in 1992. Fuel tax revenue accounts for about 70 percent of the highway fund.

Colorado doesn’t keep track of how much damage heavy trucks do to its highways. But state auditors said officials in Arizona put the price tag there between $12 million and $53 million each year, while North Carolina estimates they cause $78 million in damage each year.

The auditors’ review of Colorado’s fees and fines in October 2006 found that other states charged trucks based on how far they were traveling or how much they were carrying.