April 2, 2021
This blog is the first of a six-part series titled A Closer Look at Road-User Fees. The series explores six major objections to the implementation of a per-mile road charge and aims to dispel misconceptions and disinformation.
People do not like the idea of a stranger following them around everywhere they go. As more state legislators mull over the idea of taxing vehicle owners per mile (a.k.a. road usage charging, road-user fees, mileage-based user fees, or vehicle miles traveled tax), questions of privacy and security are prominent in the discussion. Mileage verification methods such as plug-in devices and mobile apps are often brought up.
So, should you be worried about Big Brother watching your every turn, how often you speed, or where you’re going? The short answer is not ever. Keep reading for the long answer.
Charging vehicle owners on a per-mile basis requires sophisticated mileage verification systems that are easy to implement, reliable, and secure. Account managers are private companies chosen by the state legislature to handle all mileage reporting and billing processes for a road usage charge program. These companies are exhaustively reviewed and vetted to ensure they are capable of meeting strict requirements for scalability, security, and reliability.
To comply with the law as well as safeguard personal data and all financial transactions, account managers must maintain numerous security compliance protocols. For example, Azuga (an account manager for several road charge research programs across the U.S.) encrypts personally identifiable information, stores data on secure servers of a reputable cloud storage provider, and destroys data on regular intervals as determined by the state.
State legislators conscientiously draft regulatory protections for individual participants in road usage charge systems. In Oregon’s per-mile program, OREGO, for example, the law specifies that an account manager (e.g. Azuga) can never disclose vehicle location nor any driving behavior information to the government nor third-party companies. The law also requires that all data collected through OReGO be destroyed within 30 days of payment processing.
Other than name and address information required for paying taxes, Azuga never shares personal data without the explicit consent of the vehicle owner, and the Terms & Conditions put this in writing. The participant’s vehicle data, driving behavior data and location are never disclosed to anyone other than the vehicle owner for his/her sole use. Only name, address, mileage and the associated mileage charges are shared with the state Department of Transportation for road usage billing purposes. Name and address are used by account managers for shipping and billing purposes only and never sold to third parties.
No matter how many legal and cyber protections are in place, some people still prefer a deeper privacy. For these drivers, Azuga offers a non-GPS mileage reporting option. Azuga’s Basic Device simply plugs in beneath the car’s dashboard and relays vehicle speed used to accurately calculate distance driven. Soon, Azuga will also offer a manual entry option in which users could manually submit their odometer readings via the mobile app or web portal. Entries would be sent monthly or quarterly and no hardware installation is required.
No matter your preference or feelings on privacy, there are options. But we understand there are other questions regarding the road usage charge as a funding alternative to the gas tax. Stay tuned to our blog for more on A Closer Look at Road-User Fees Series.
Is a road usage charge burdensome to low-income families?