April 7, 2022
When discussions of infrastructure come up in the news, a vehicle miles traveled tax is often proposed to solve all of our problems. It is a popular idea because it is a long-term solution that addresses all of the current issues with the gas tax system currently in place. A vehicle miles traveled tax means that drivers would not be charged based on how much fuel they use but how many miles they travel. This means that drivers would pay into the Highway Trust Fund more equally, no matter what kind of vehicle they drive, and there would be more funding. Experts estimate that implementing a vehicle miles traveled tax would increase the Highway Trust Fund by about $340 million. To learn more about how this tax works and how it would be implemented, check out our glossary entry on the subject.
Many states have been testing out this structure and have found great success. Oregon, Utah, and Connecticut already have programs in place. This article will discuss what states have done to implement and test road usage charging programs in their areas.
As we’ve mentioned, Oregon, Utah, and Connecticut have implemented road usage charging programs in their states.
Oregon’s program is called OReGO and is a voluntary program that allows drivers of electric and fuel-efficient vehicles to opt into instead of receiving increased registration fees on their vehicles. This practice originally began in 2015 as a test, and Oregon found the process easy to implement. Drivers simply need to plug a device into the OBD port on their vehicle to track mileage. Then, they set up a digital wallet online. As they drive, money is automatically deducted from this digital wallet based on how many miles they drive. This process requires very little administrative support.
Utah’s system is very similar to OReGO’s but uses a different operating system. It is similar in that it uses registration fees as an incentive and is entirely voluntary. There is no significant difference between the two programs.
Connecticut’s program is on a much smaller scale. It only applies to trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds and does not begin until 2023.
Washington’s pilot program for road usage charging took place in 2020. They focused on how increasing fuel economy and alternative fuel sources will soon cause a drop in revenue from the gas tax. This is how they determined that in the next 20 to 40 years, a road usage program would bring in more funding for infrastructure than a gas tax. They do not want to raise the gas tax, as that would simply make the situation worse because drivers of fuel-efficient and electric vehicles would still not be paying, and regular drivers would be paying even more. It would, therefore, never be approved.
California’s pilot program found success in 2017 when they found that 90% of people would be willing to participate in another road usage charging program. 85% were satisfied with the pilot overall. They found that the main concern people had was data security. However, 78% of people were satisfied with the security of California’s road usage charging program. Overall, 73% voted that the road usage charge was fairer than the gas tax.
When Colorado ran a four-month pilot back in 2017, they tested 150 participants across 27 different counties. They provided three different reporting methods and reported on three types of vehicles: gas, hybrid, and electric. These drivers traveled 541,016 miles. They found success as well, with 93% of people satisfied with the pilot program, 96% satisfied with the ease of the program, and 91% willing to participate in a program going forward. 88% were satisfied with the program’s security, while 81% thought it was fairer than the gas tax, and 99% believed the reporting was accurate.
Other states such as Hawaii, North Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota have also conducted opinion surveys or run much smaller programs to determine how effective a road usage charging program would be. These states eventually want to conduct more extensive pilot programs to implement road usage charging in their state for the long haul.
Road usage charging is likely the most viable solution for our nation’s infrastructure problems. We need to find a solution quickly, as it is a significant safety concern that must be addressed. As our population grows, the concern only rises. Learn more about road usage charging on our blog or in our Info Center and stay up to date.