What We Learned from the California Road Charge Pilot Program

February 9, 2022

Road usage charging is increasingly becoming the popular solution to fund our nation’s infrastructure initiatives. Many states have implemented pilot programs to test out how road usage charging would work in their states and have had great success. The only two states with fully functioning road usage charging programs are Oregon and Utah, which have had their programs in place since 2020. California completed its first road usage pilot in 2017 and learned a great deal from it, and is now using it to inform road usage charge projects in some cities. This article will discuss how the California Road Charge Pilot Program worked and what we learned from it. 

Reporting Methods

The California road charge pilot tested various reporting methods, including manual and automatic reporting methods. Users prefer options for how they report their miles, so they offered various options. We will go over these options below: 

  • Manual Reporting Methods
  • Time Permit: The participant pre-pays for a period during which they can drive an unlimited amount.
  • Mileage Permit: The participant pays for a fixed number of miles.
  • Odometer Charge: The driver reports miles driven periodically, then pays for the number of miles traveled since they last reported their odometer reading.
  • Automated Reporting Methods
  • Automated Reporting with No Location: Participants utilized technology options that did not track their location. 
  • Automated Reporting with General Location: Participants can avoid paying the road charge for traveling out of state or on private roads because the method contained location technology. This technology only reports general location through map matching so the system could calculate travel as chargeable or non-chargeable. 

These reporting methods were gathered using various technologies. California harnessed five different technology options as reporting methods for their pilot program: 

  • Plug-in Device: This device plugs into the OBD-II port, which uses wireless technology to transmit mileage technology to the Account Manager. 
  • Smartphone with No Location: This pilot used a smartphone application that measured mileage through a vehicle’s odometer images that drivers would submit once a month. 
  • Smartphone with General Location: This was another application that measured mileage using an algorithm that measured when a driver was driving using GPS data, wi-fi signals, and other data, and used location data to calculate miles driven. This app also required drivers to submit odometer readings.
  • In-vehicle Telematics: Telematics is the technology integrated into vehicles themselves. With this method, vehicle data is transmitted to an internet-based system operated by the carmaker. 
  • Commercial Vehicle Mileage Meter: In this method, a device is professionally mounted into commercial trucks to measure the distance traveled. 

Participant Process

The process for the participants was relatively easy. It was strictly voluntary. All they had to do was enroll in the pilot, select an account manager, mileage reporting method, and technology, and begin driving. Their account managers would collect their mileage and fuel consumption information via secure wireless communications if the participants were using automated methods. If they were using the manual options, the account managers would collect periodic readings. The participants would receive monthly simulated invoices, but they did not have to pay money for their miles traveled. These invoices detailed their estimated gas tax paid versus what they would have paid in a road charge system. Then, the participants submitted a mock payment via an online wallet. Finally, the participants completed a series of three surveys to outline their experience once they were done. 

The Findings

This section will examine the finding from the surveys that the participants took. Overall, the participants were satisfied with the pilot. 86% were pleased with the mileage reporting method. 74% were happy with the account manager they chose for the pilot. Finally, 62% of participants who used technology for the program selected a location-based mileage reporting method. 

As far as the participants’ willingness to participate in a road usage charge in the future? The outlook is positive. 73% felt that a road usage charge is a more fair transportation funding solution than the gas tax. 87% agreed that participating in the pilot was easy, meaning that implementing it on a wide scale would not require a significant learning curve. Overall, 85% were satisfied with the pilot, and 61% are more aware of the amount they pay for road maintenance. 

Generally, the road usage pilot brought out a positive reception from the participants. They found it to be a better solution for funding the nation’s infrastructure from a citizen’s perspective. Gaining the support of the citizens is greatly important for making road usage charging happen nationwide, so this is an excellent first step for California. 

Learn More About Road Usage Charging

To learn more about the findings of California’s road usage charging program, check out their summary report. For everything else regarding this initiative, follow Azuga Insight’s blog. Azuga Insight is Azuga’s technology used for road usage charging. To stay up to date with road usage charging news, stay up to date with us!

Explore our latest posts