Quietly, Wyoming has been investigating whether road user charging could replace its fuel tax. On Monday 21st September, the Transportation, Highways & Military Affairs of the State Legislature will be discussing a draft Bill (PDF) to implement a "road usage charge" for the state.
The Bill proposes that all Wyoming registered vehicles be subject to RUC, with six categories of vehicles and per mile rates as follows :
- Motorcycles (US$0.013);
- Private cars (US$0.0215);
- Pickup trucks and vans (US$0.0287);
- Buses and rigid trucks (US$0.065);
- Single trailer trucks (US$0.1032); and
- Seven of more multi-axle trailer trucks (US$0.1435).
- Get the public to accept the case for road user charging. Without public acceptability, the policy is dead.
- If you fail with your first attempt, you can't try a second time for at least ten years, because the public, stakeholders (and the media) will remember why it failed the first time.
- Six categories of vehicles is curious. It's curious to include motorcycles (which no other RUC system anywhere has included - no, Singapore's ERP is NOT a RUC system), that I can't imagine the transaction costs involved in including them (let alone enforcing RUC against out of state motorcycles). There are so few categories for heavy vehicles it is extraordinary, as this provides next to no opportunity to vary rates by mass (as categories) or configuration (to reward more road-friendly configurations). Other full network heavy vehicle RUC systems (Oregon, New Zealand and Switzerland) have much wider categories by mass and configuration, that this over-simplification will mean the heaviest vehicles will subsidise lighter ones, and there are no incentives to have additional axles and tyres to reduce road wear. Category 3 is odd indeed, either make it similar to passenger cars or make them light trucks.
- There are variations between commercial account managers and state provision. The state can be the RUC provider and can subcontract retail outlets to open accounts on its behalf. This is exactly what happens with prepaid distance permits in New Zealand, which can be bought at some gas stations, post offices and some other outlets.
- Rate adjustments according to inflation are all very well, but in both Oregon and New Zealand, this is not the main source of information about rate setting. Both jurisdictions (and in fact European ones) use cost-allocation models to help inform what rates should apply to different types of vehicles based on what vehicles generate costs on the road network (informed by spending). It's a sophisticated process, but it minimises cross-subsidies between groups of road users.
- Having a process to credit fuel taxes paid means having a system parallel with the RUC system, which can be tricky especially for private automobile users. If payment isn't automated, there needs to be a verifiable system to identify gas tax collections and credit it to the RUC account. There are a lot of ways of doing this, but they need to take into account those who pay cash for fuel, and those who have their own fleet filling stations.
- Minimise exemptions, they can cost a lot of money and provide opportunities for fraud, but ensure you make vehicles that spend very little distance on public roads, such as some farm equipment, exempt (not tractors that can drive many miles on public roads or farm trucks). Consider that if a type of vehicle typically spends only a few miles on public roads a year (e.g. by going from one part of a farm to another) then there is no point collecting revenue on a per mile basis from them.