April 5, 2022
Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. Both sides of the political spectrum and everyone in between can agree on that. Right now, the gas tax supports the Highway Trust Fund, but this has not been sufficient for over a quarter of a century. In recent decades, fuel-efficient and electric vehicles have grown in popularity and do not pay very much in gas taxes anymore. Meanwhile, the gas tax has not increased to keep up with inflation in over 25 years.
These problems combined mean that we do not have enough money in the Highway Trust Fund to keep up with our nation’s infrastructure needs, and the government has had to shell out billions of dollars to pay for basic upkeep and cities’ improvements. Two prominent ideas that experts have suggested are road usage charges and road congestion pricing. The Oregon Department of Transportation has tested both of these ideas and continues to share its learnings. Let’s discuss what both terms mean and their pros and cons.
Road usage charging, also known as RUC, means that the government charges drivers for how many miles they travel instead of the current system of charging them based on how much gas they use. You may hear discussions of RUC call it many different names, such as mileage-based user fees (MBUF), mileage tax, vehicle miles traveled tax (VMTT), and distance-based user fees (DBUF). All of these terms refer to the same concept.
This concept is already in play in some states and major cities, including Oregon, Utah, and Connecticut. In these states, drivers simply install a device into their OBD port and set up a digital wallet online. Then, as they drive, the system tracks how many miles they travel and automatically deducts money from their wallet based on these miles. In Oregon, the fuel tax that these drivers pay is credited to their digital wallets, so drivers are not taxed twice.
Of course, with any policy, there are pros and cons. We have a detailed article on the pros and cons of this concept called “The End of the Gas Tax? Pros and Cons of the Mileage Tax.” But we will go over the basics here.
Congestion pricing is another alternative to the gas tax, except it involves charging drivers for traveling in high-traffic areas during busy times of the day. Our article, “What You Need to Know About Road Congestion Charges,” explains these charges in greater detail, but we will go over the basics of these fees. There are four types:
The goal of these charges is not only to raise money for infrastructure but also to reduce congestion in major cities.
Just like with RUC, there are pros and cons to congestion pricing.
Azuga is the place to go if you want to keep up with news about funding infrastructure. We are at the forefront of vehicle telematics technology, so this subject is critical for us. Our blog and Info Center frequently posts updates on RUC and congestion pricing; follow us to remain in the know.