- Report Published -
|Highway Matters - Majority Report and Minority Report|
|General Assembly; Special Commission|
|SJR 48 (Regular Session, 1952)|
Since 1940 the maximum gross weights permitted on the highways of Virginia have been raised by successive increments from 40,000 pounds to the present maximum gross weight of 50,000 pounds.
During the same period changes were made in the license tax structure applicable to both private vehicles and commercial truck transportation generally, and the gross receipts tax, which was applicable to certain carriers by motor vehicle, was suspended as to certain out-of-State carriers. Coincident with the increase in permissible weights of motor vehicles, the number of trucks on the highways has increased materially. The public as well as highway officials and members of the legislature have been concerned about the effect of heavy traffic on the existing system of highways. The question is also raised whether commercial transportation is paying its fair share of the cost of the maintenance and construction of our roads.
In 1932 the State took over the maintenance and operation of the secondary system of highways. With the exception of the counties of Arlington and Henrico, the secondary system in all of the counties is now maintained by the State Department of Highways. Some counties have been concerned about the allocations to them under the formula adopted by the State Highway Commission for the expenditure of secondary highway funds. From time to time proposals are being made that the formula be changed.
In view of the concern as to the allocation of the secondary highway system funds and in an attempt to obtain adequate information as to commercial truck transportation and its effect on the highway system, the General Assembly in 1952 passed Senate Joint Resolution No. 48 which is as follows:
Senate Joint Resolution No. 48
Creating a commission to study matters relating to highways.
"Whereas, the Commonwealth has invested many millions of dollars in a State-wide system of highways; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate of Virginia, the House of Delegates concurring, that a commission be, and it hereby is, created to make a study and report upon the following matters:
(1) (a) The effect on such highways of the existing maximum weights permitted on the highways; (b) the improvements required if increased maximum weights be allowed on the highways and the cost of such improvements; (c) the effect of the cost of such improvements on the funds available for the secondary system of highways; and, in such connection, whether the secondary highway funds might be allocated upon a more equitable basis.
(2) Whether or not commercial trucks of all classes are paying in property*, gross receipts, and gasoline taxes an amount sufficient fairly to compensate the Commonwealth for the highway facilities it provides.
(3) The extent, if any, to which commercial trucks affect highway safety and what changes if any should be made in this connection.
(4) Whether or not commercial truck transportation with relation to railroads and other forms of transportation is carrying a fair share of the cost of general government in Virginia.
(5) The method of weighing commercial vehicles, and the assessment of penalties for overloading thereof, with regard to the fairness of such method of weighing and the assessment of penalties, to both the State and the owner of such commercial vehicle.
The commission shall be composed of nine members, of whom two shall be appointed from the Senate by the President thereof, three shall be appointed from the House of Delegates by the Speaker thereof, and four shall be appointed from the State at large by the Governor, who shall designate some member of the commission as chairman thereof.
The Department of Highways, State Corporation Commission, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and the Division of State Police shall cooperate with the commission and furnish it with such data as it may require. All other agencies of the State shall assist the commission upon request.
The members of the commission shall receive no compensation for their services but shall be paid their necessary expenses incurred thereon for which, and for such secretarial and other assistance as the commission may require, there is appropriated from the General Fund the sum of ten thousand dollars. The commission shall complete its study and make its report to the Governor and General Assembly not later than November one, nineteen hundred and fifty-three."
Pursuant to the resolution the Speaker of the House of Delegates appointed from the membership of the House, John H. Daniel, Charlotte Court House, Henry B. Gordon, Charlottesville, and Charles D. Price, Stanley. The President of the Senate appointed from the Senate, W. Marvin Minter, Mathews, and George W. Palmer, Green Bay. The Governor appointed Carter Glass, Jr., of Lynchburg, R. A. Marr, Jr., of Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Worthington Faulkner of Glasgow, and Walter L. Grant of Danville. The Governor designated Colonel Marr as the Chairman of the Commission.
The Commission met and organized on November 10, 1952, and Senator W. Marvin Minter was elected Vice Chairman, John B. Boatwright, Jr., and G. M. Lapsley were appointed Secretary and Recording Secretary, respectively. An Executive Committee, composed of Messrs. Marr, Daniel, Faulkner, Minter and Palmer, was created.
The Commission began by compiling information applicable to the various forms of transportation in the State. In this connection it submits the following findings:
1. Oil and gas transmission companies are paying the real estate and other taxes applicable to business generally throughout the State. They are not subjected to any special form of taxation. Their activities do not directly affect the highways and are not of such magnitude as to justify detailed consideration of their problems in this report.
2. The commercial air lines are likewise subject to the same taxes that are applicable to business generally throughout the State. They have little taxable property within the State and pay relatively small amounts in taxes to the State and its political subdivisions. The gasoline taxes which they pay are segregated for expenditure for aviation purposes.
3. Transportation by barge and barge line is of relatively little importance in the State.
4. Ships and shipping lines are subject to the same forms of taxation that are applicable to business generally throughout the State. No special forms of taxation are applicable to them. Since the amendments passed by the 1952 session of the General Assembly, the shipping lines are not subject to the gross receipts tax. Their operations do not affect highways sufficiently to warrant their inclusion in this study.
5. Passenger buses operating as common carriers outside cities pay the State tax on their gross receipts; such buses operating within cities pay such cities a tax on their gross receipts. Both types of carrier pay the usual State and local taxes applicable to business generally. Only a few of this commission's recommendations will affect these carriers and specific mention will be made of these in succeeding sections of the report.
This Commission has deemed its primary function to be to consider commercial truck transportation, its effect upon the highway system, and the adequacy and equity of taxes paid by this industry. In this group are found the common carrier, the contract carrier, and the private hauler. Each of the three classes operating on the highways of this State is composed of both domestic and foreign carriers.
Many meetings of the Commission have been devoted to a consideration of the problems before it. The Commission has met on the following dates: November 10, and December 10, 1952, February 6, February 20, April 2 and 3, May 13, June 17 and 18, August 1, October 12, and November 9, 1953. The February, April, May and June meetings were open to the public, and interested individuals and organizations were given ample opportunity to appear and present their views. There appears in the Supplement to this report lists of those persons and organizations to whom notices of the hearings were sent, as well as those who testified before the Commission.
The data which was assembled for the consideration of the Commission is voluminous. Much of it was supplied through the cooperation of the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Department of State Police, the State Corporation Commission, and the Department of Highways. Officials and employees of these agencies have been of the greatest assistance to the Commission furnishing it with expert, technical advice throughout its study.
The Commission secured the services of Dr. Boyd Harshbarger, Head, Department of Statistics, V. P. I., Blacksburg, Virginia, and the facilities of his staff and Statistical Laboratory to prepare a number of independent studies in connection with the economic problems involved in question No.2.
In addition to the information which the agencies of the State have supplied, a considerable amount of information from other states, federal agencies, and other sources has been made available to the members of the Commission. A list of the material studied by the Commission is too long for inclusion in the body of this report but the reader is referred to the Supplement where he will find a bibliography of the material which is generally available. Anyone attempting a detailed study of this material particularly the elaborate briefs submitted by both the Virginia Highway Users Association and the Virginia Railway Association should note the procedure followed by the Commission in studying these documents. These briefs were submitted in advance of public hearings. After study, the Association concerned was furnished in advance a list of questions on which further data was desired or clarification deemed necessary. A major portion of the hearings was devoted to such a question-and-answer presentation. This supplementary data is given on the verbatim reports of the public hearings.
FORM OF THE REPORT
A consideration of Senate Joint Resolution No. 48 will indicate that it is readily divisible into two parts. One portion, consisting of Paragraphs (1), (3) and (5), deals directly with factual questions concerning the effect of the maximum permissible weights and possible increased weights on the highways, both primary and secondary, the effects of commercial truck transportation on highway safety, and the program for controlling weights carried by trucks. The other portion of the resolution consisting of Paragraphs (2) and (4), deals primarily with questions of taxation and economics.
In view of the divisible nature of the study directed by the resolution, the Commission has decided to make its report in two parts. Part I will deal with Paragraphs (1), (3), and (5) of the resolution and Part II will deal with Paragraphs (2) and (4). Each division will be further subdivided as necessity appears to indicate.
*Note: The Commission and interested parties appearing before it have interpreted "property" in question (2) as intended to mean license fees since "real property taxes" would come under Question No. (4).