In order to properly structure a fuel tax dedicated to road maintenance and construction, I think a good understanding of fuel usage by type is critical. The users causing the damage and benefiting from the improvement should foot the bill.

Disclaimer: I am not a civil, structural, or transportation engineer, never worked for the Dept. of Transportation, and have never even held a STOP/SLOW sign on a road crew. But I feel as qualified as the Legislature to offer a suggestion on the tax structure.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 3 billion gallons of motor fuel are consumed in Louisiana annually. The breakdown for this consumption is about 2.2 billion gallons of gasoline and 800 million gallons of diesel.

I think it is safe to say that much of the wear and tear is weight based per mile traveled. I believe the great majority of diesel is consumed by the 18-wheelers on our roads. Because all of them are not fully loaded on each trip, let’s say that the average weight carried by each truck is 30,000 pounds. To that we can add the weight of the truck. The average weight of each car/SUV/pick up is probably about 3000 pounds.

Using fake math to justify my position, if we take just the weight carried by trucks using 800 million gallons of diesel we get about 24 trillion pounds carried on our roads each year, plus the truck weight. If we take the weight carried by 2.2 billion gallons of gasoline we get 6.6 trillion pounds per year. I don’t believe the diesel powered vehicles are responsible for three to four times the road and bridge wear and tear, although it is possible, but it certainly is reasonable to say they are responsible for half the damage.

For each user group to cover half of the $700 million necessary we would need a tax on diesel of 44 cents per gallon and a tax of 16 cents per gallon on gasoline. For $500 million it would be about 32 cents and 12 cents.

The Energy Information Administration also points out that approximately 75 percent of refined products in Louisiana are shipped out of state for final processing or consumption. Because the 18 wheelers are carrying the raw materials, supplies, and finished products, I think it is a good idea for all customers benefiting from the products carried on our roads and bridges to pay their share of the damage. This, in my opinion, further justifies the higher tax on diesel fuel.

The legislation could be structured so individuals driving diesel powered vehicles could file for a tax credit for the difference when doing their Louisiana tax returns.

Bo Bienvenu

Retired manager