Testimony, Senate Select Committee on Transportation Funding, Expenditures & Finance
Because CTR’s diverse slate of researchers provides such a wide range of transportation expertise, we are uniquely qualified to provide expert testimony on a wide range of topics. In September, CTR Deputy Director Rob Harrison and Research Associate Mike Murphy testified before the Senate Select Committee on Transportation Funding, Expenditures and Financing, which is chaired by Senator Robert Nichols. Watch their testimony in this video of that day’s committee meeting (look for them starting at 01:16:28).
Mr. Harrison and Dr. Murphy provided testimony on the topics of declining fuel tax revenue and oversize/overweight truck corridors.
Fuel Economy Increase and Alternative Fuels Mean Lower Fuel Tax Revenues
Mr. Harrison noted that heavy trucks are improving in fuel economy. Just a few years ago, they averaged around 5 MPG, but the newest models are reaching around 7 MPG or more. In addition, some trucking companies are exploring the possibility of converting their fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquified natural gas (LNG). CNG and LNG are taxed at 15¢ per gallon-equivalent of diesel based on energy measured in BTUs—roughly 6¢ per gallon less than diesel—which might be an attractive alternative for some heavy truck companies. While diesel will remain the predominant truck fuel for next 10 years, CNG/LNG will grow in market share.
Given the potential for increased fuel economy for diesel trucks and the possibility that some companies might convert to CNG or LNG, we have reason for concern about further erosion of the fuel tax revenue used to fund highway improvements.
In addition, Mr. Harrison expressed concerns about the current estimates of heavy truck vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Texas currently has the second-highest truck VMT in the US (California has the most). However, Mr. Harrison thinks that the VMT for trucks serving the energy sector might not be fully captured. Since the energy sector represents a large segment of the Texas economy and has been served by tens of thousands of additional trucks in recent years, truck VMT may be undervalued—as well as the axle loads that accompany all those truck trips, and the resulting wear and tear on the roads. This topic opened up the floor to Mike.
New OW Trucks Project
In his testimony, Dr. Murphy discussed a recent TxDOT project awarded to CTR to develop a process to designate and manage overweight (OW) truck corridors serving coastal port regions. This project was motivated by House Bill (HB) 474 and HB 1325, which were passed by the 83rd legislature and signed into law.
- HB 474 authorizes the Hidalgo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) to work with the Texas Transportation Commission to establish new OW truck routes associated with two international bridge crossings.
- HB 1325 established potential new routes that are linked to a current OW truck route at the Port of Brownsville. The existing OW truck route is along SH 4/SH 48 and carries approximately 35,000 permitted OW trucks per year from the Veterans International bridge between Texas and Mexico, along US 77/83 to SH 4/SH 48, and finally to FM 511 at the Port of Brownsville.
The CTR study will develop a process for evaluating the factors for establishing OW truck routes, including whether sufficient permit revenue is available to fund the pavement and bridge maintenance made necessary by these larger loads.