Lincoln County Commissioners reported they favor SB48, a bill currently before the Nevada state legislature that would allow counties and municipalities with less than 100,000 residents the option to levy a five-cent diesel tax.

As reported recently in the Reno-Gazette Journal, SB48 excludes red diesel used for mining and agriculture, but does include biodiesel, biomass diesel and kerosene blended with diesel.

The measure also intends to “redirect 10 percent of the taxes generated,” the paper reported, “back to the state to construct safe parking areas for big rigs. Agencies including the Nevada Trucking Association, the Nevada Building Alliance and the Nevada Taxpayers Association support the bill.”

Varlin Higbee, chair of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, said the matter was discussed at the end of the commission meeting May 20. “It wasn’t an item on the agenda,” he said. “After our meeting concluded I got a phone call from Assemblyman John Ellison (R-District 36) asking me to make phone calls in support of the measure.”

If Governor Sisolak signed the bill, provided it is approved by both houses of the state legislature, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

“The trucking industry is the one that is really supporting this thing,” Higbee said. “But I, and our other commission members, also favor it, providing an official place or places for truckers to park on 93,” or other heavily traveled county roads, if so desired.

An article in the Nevada Appeal newspaper in February noted Paul Enos of the Nevada Trucking Association favored the bill “because it would provide money to maintain the roads, money to build more truck parking areas and make Nevada the first state in the U.S. to deal with the issue of truck parking.”

He said, “Trucks deliver 92 percent of freight in Nevada, but there is a huge issue with the lack of truck parking. As a result, trucks are parking on the interstate, on offramps and in neighborhoods across Nevada.”

A question raised is whether these special truck parking areas are needed in Lincoln County.

Some say no, because truckers who travel through Lincoln County often know where the better stopping areas are and can plan their day accordingly to get there on time.

On the other side, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said, “Truckers who don’t know the county well, haven’t been here very often, if at all, and other parts of rural Nevada, don’t know where places are to safely pull over for the night or when their hours run out for the day. I don’t want to see the tax raised, but there really aren’t many good places in Lincoln County for truckers to pull over when needed.”

He explained further, “Our roads are so narrow, there’s no places when the truck drivers do get tired that they can pull off. And with the moisture we have had this year, you just can’t pull off in every place. You just might get stuck in the soft ground all the way over Panaca Summit, or on US 93, north of Pony Springs. I just think there are very few places for truckers to pull off overnight. That’s why you see so many stopping at the Y in Panaca, at Ash Springs or Sinclair in Alamo. They love those, but there are so few places in between.”

One trucker, pulling a long double-fuel tanker, told the Record, for the longer rigs, including doubles and triples, finding a place to park overnight at places like the Y, Ash Springs or Alamo, can be difficult “because maybe all the spots are already full.”

Lee said, “We don’t get too many triples on our roads, but we do see a lot of doubles.”

The Nevada Appeal article noted several people have spoken in opposition to the bill, “arguing the measure should require approval of both two-thirds of the county commission members and a vote of the people. Many counties only have a three-man board, so the diesel taxes could be raised just on the vote of two commissioners.”

Higbee said, “If we could raise the price a nickel a gallon, it would generate about $15,000 for our road department. I would like to put it as a referendum on our ballot this fall, and see if people are okay with it.”