April 5, 2022
If you’ve been tuning in to infrastructure news, you’ve likely heard all the talk about road usage charges and congestion-based pricing. These two proposals have been offered as solutions to replace the gas tax, which has been insufficient in funding our Highway Trust Fund for over a quarter of a century now. While congestion-based charging is more popular overseas, road usage charging has taken hold in the United States, with implementation already taking place in Oregon, Utah, and Connecticut. Many other states are considering their own programs. You can read more about what road usage charging is in our glossary entry to catch up, but in this article, we will be discussing electric vehicles in particular.
Road usage charges are often seen as a punishment for drivers of electric vehicles. After all, under the current gas tax system, drivers of EVs don’t have to pay anything. Other drivers argue that this is unfair and that EV drivers benefit. Furthermore, most states are considering implementing road usage charge programs by raising registration fees on EV drivers to incentivize them to opt into these programs. Therefore, it can be easy to see why these drivers may not immediately be fans of RUC programs. However, many factors of these charges benefit EV drivers, and we will discuss them below.
The average driver travels about 6,300 miles per year. During this time, electric vehicle drivers pay about $113 per year in road usage charges in Oregon, one of the states where an RUC program is widespread. These vehicles are spending an estimated $380 per year for repairs and maintenance caused by roads that are in disrepair. Road usage fees aim to pay for repairing the roads and infrastructure that cause these vehicles so much damage. The Oregon Department of Transportation published Rough Roads Ahead 2: Economic Implications of Deteriorating Highway Conditions. This report noted that “[v]ehicle operating costs rise as the pavement surface becomes rougher: fuel efficiency declines, tire wear and repair costs rise.”
Rough roads have various effects on our vehicles, including decreasing their fuel efficiency, wearing out their tires, and causing them to require more repairs such as alignments. When drivers pay a road usage charge, they contribute to highway maintenance and pay less than the wear-and-tear to their vehicle caused by unmaintained roads.
In Oregon, before 2015, households spent about 17% of their income on transportation. Much of those costs were spent on vehicle operating expenses relating to fuel, oil, tires, maintenance, and repairs. The degradation of pavement conditions means that with more road use, those costs rise, and household budgets are impacted even more.
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program studied how different vehicles were affected by driving on rough pavement. They conducted this study on medium cars, vans, SUVs, light trucks, and articulated trucks. They found that operating costs rise 23% for light vehicles, when they drive on rough pavement.
The cost statewide for drivers would go up 4% if 20% of driving miles were traveled on rough pavement. That may not sound like a lot, but it accounts for spending about $300 million a year. Therefore, bad roads are costly for all drivers, including electric vehicle owners.
One of the most significant concerns in the modern world is climate change, particularly when it comes to transportation. Transportation is one of the greatest contributors to pollution and carbon emissions. However, the current gas tax system only contributes to the problem. Meanwhile, a road usage charge allows states to address the problem by charging drivers in 3 ways.
However, when not all drivers are paying into funding infrastructure, the DOT cannot fund initiatives to improve infrastructure and cannot make transportation better suited to combat climate change.
To find out more about road usage charging, follow our blog or visit our Info Center. We post updates on the subject regularly to keep you informed. We are leaders in creating technology that makes road usage charging possible and easy to implement, so we are experts in the field. Prepare for the future by learning more today!