The most exciting trial of road charging in the world today is the one that is about to start in California. California is going to pilot 5000 volunteers, a mix of private and commercial vehicles, for five options that it seeks to appraise. The policy intention is clear. The intention is to replace the fuel tax with a new way of charging for road use. Why? Because the significant growth of electric, hybrid and ultra-fuel efficient vehicles is eroding gas tax revenue, and even the existing proposal to increase the gas tax for the first time (and remove the current fuel tax swap) will not provide a sustainable solution to California's highway funding dilemma.
It is no exaggeration to say that the rest of the US is watching California. If the California Road Charge Pilot is a success and there is broad agreement to implement it, then it is likely other states may follow. Yes, Oregon was first, but California has the largest GDP of any state in the USA (indeed its economy is larger than Brazil, Italy, India or Russia).
As California prepares for the launch of its road charge pilot program on 1 July, Caltrans has announced the companies that will be managing the accounts for the 5000 volunteers during the pilot:
- Azuga (Azuga is already an account manager for the OReGO pilot in Oregon);
- Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (a Canadian company that supplies telematics and connected car technology);
- Arvato Mobility Solutions (a German company that provides outsourcing solutions for mobility); and
- EROAD (a New Zealand company that is an account manager for the NZ and Oregon weight-distance road charging systems).
Azuga and Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS) will offer mileage based accounts and Arvato will offer a state-run account management service. EROAD will manage all heavy vehicle accounts for the pilot.
The pilot has an excellent website here which has useful information. There are links to other information including this fact sheet (PDF). Details on decisions on how the pilot will be implemented are here (PDF).
The following five charging options are to be piloted:
- Time permit: Purchase of unlimited use of the roads for a set period of time (similar to "vignette" systems in various European countries);
- Mileage permit: Purchase of a set number of miles to use the roads, in advance. Once the permit is exhausted, an additional permit would be required (similar to New Zealand's manual Road User Charge system);
- Odometer charge: Pay for miles used based on periodic odometer readings, after they have been driven. This is similar to manual weight/distance taxes in a few US states.
- Automatic mileage reporting including general location: Pay based on in-vehicle technology measuring distance travelled. A third party service provider would receive this information and bill the account holder. Location information would only be used to avoid charging out of state and off-road miles.
- Automatic mileage reporting without general location: Similar to the above example, but no geographic data is supplied.
All but the first option involve distance charging, but all but the last distance charging option would raise the issue of crediting for out of state or off-road miles.
Volunteers will not actually pay any charge, but will choose options of simulated charges to test the technology and participant responses to the various road charge options. Azuga, IMS and EROAD may provide value added services at no cost to volunteers as part of the pilot. Volunteers will choose an account manager in June. The graphic below outlines what volunteers need to do to participate.
|California road charge volunteer process|
NOTE: This is the 500th post of this blog. I hope you enjoy reading the posts and find them interesting and informative. I know I have covered some matters in past years that I have not covered more recently. Rest assured I have more time to dedicate to blog articles, so there will be consistently fresh content every week. Best regards, Scott