Driving tens of thousands of miles a year to shoe horses, the American farrier depends on the nation’s public roadways. Over the next 5 years, farriers can expect to see more construction zones pop up on heavily traveled roads and bridges.
The Biden administration’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, known as Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was signed into law Monday. It calls for spending $110 billion over the next 5 years on roads, bridges and major infrastructure. Of that amount, $40 billion is earmarked for bridge repair and replacement. It is the largest amount spent on bridge construction since work began on the Eisenhower Interstate system in the 1950s.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reports that roads are improving, but much work must be done. The organization grades American infrastructure as a C- in its 2021 Report Card. It is the first time it has scored outside of the D range in 20 years.
“While that in an incremental, small improvement, it still is not something to write home about,” Tom Smith, executive director of the ASCE, told CNN when the Report Card was released in March. “It’s certainly not a grade that you’d be proud of.”
While the ASCE report finds that 43% of the nation’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition, White House officials say 20% of highways and major roads, as well as 45,000 bridges, are in poor condition.
In addition to addressing roads, bridges, rail and transit, the legislation establishes a pilot program to “test the design, acceptance, implementation and financial sustainability of a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee.”
The federal government relies on the federal fuel tax to pay for transportation infrastructure. However, last year there were about 1.8 million electric vehicles in the U.S., which accounts for 0.005% of registered vehicles. It’s estimated that each electric vehicle accounts for $97 annually in federal fuel taxes that are not collected — or a total of $174.6 million. In addition, the Biden administration is pushing for 50% of new car sales to be electric, fuel-cell and plug-in hybrids by 2030.
The volunteer pilot program will collect miles traveled information from third-party on-board diagnostic (OBD-II) devices, smartphone applications, telemetric data collected by automakers, motor vehicle data from insurance companies, states that received grants from the Obama administration’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, fueling stations and “any other method that the Secretary [of the Treasury] considers appropriate.”
During the pilot program, the secretary will annually determine per-mile user fees for passenger cars, light trucks and medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The amount likely will hit rig-driving farriers harder since they conceivably are responsible for increased wear and tear on public infrastructure. However, the legislation does not indicate how it will determine whether a farrier trailer is regularly used. Other factors that will be considered in the amount of the fees include “safety, congestion, the environment, or other related social impacts.”
One year after the pilot program launches, the treasury secretary will report its results to Congress and determine its feasibility.
The potential replacement of the fuel tax with a road-use tax received mix reviews from the farriers. Some 49% of farriers say that a switch to a mileage-based road tax will negatively affect their hoof-care business, according to an American Farriers Journal poll. Another 43% say it's too early to know how it will affect their business. Some 4% say it will positively influence their business, while another 4% say it will have no effect.
- H.R. 3684 — Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Read the full text of the infrastructure spending legislation.
- U.S. Eyes New Road Use Tax: Congress proposes studying annual mileage fee to replace fuel tax.
- Proposed Road Use Tax Poll: How will the proposed road use tax affect your hoof-care business?
- American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 Report Card: Read the full report on the nation’s infrastructure.