Federal fuel taxes likely will remain static for at least another year, but the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the United States Senate recently approved indicates changes are on the horizon.

When turning to 508 of the 2,702-page piece of legislation, the authors are calling for a pilot program to “test the design, acceptance, implementation and financial sustainability of a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee.”

While most states aren’t reluctant to raise fuel taxes, it seems to have become a forbidden practice on Capitol Hill. The federal taxes have remained at 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel since 1993. Adjusting for inflation places the taxes at 34 and 44 cents per gallon. Meanwhile, technological advances have improved the average fuel efficiency for cars from 20.7 miles per gallon (mpg) to 25.7, while standard trucks have jumped to 20 mpg from 13 during the same period.

Although immobile federal fuel tax revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure is a significant driver of the legislation, President Joe Biden is pushing for changes in the automobile industry. His recent executive order calls for 50% of new car sales to be electric, fuel-cell and plug-in hybrids by 2030.

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.

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.

Learn More

  • H.R. 3684: Read the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act.
  • Distance Traveled: How much distance do you drive per week in your footcare practice? How does this influence how you schedule clients?
  • Boost Productivity with Better Scheduling: Plan a more efficient workday with these tips from experienced farriers