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Truck Road Use Electronics Pilot Project
Pilot Project Complete
Testing complete
While ODOT has successfully concluded testing of the Truck Road Use Electronics pilot as a future way to collect Oregon's truck weight-mile tax, a private sector enterprise has picked up the concept and is running with it today.
 
ODOT's pilot involves partnerships
TRUE infrastructure was built and integrated into MCTD's Trucking Online Internet service to demonstrate truck location mapping, individual trip and summary trip details, individual vehicle and fleet summary reports, exception reports comparing vehicle information entered into TRUE with weigh station records, calculation of weight-mile tax and creation of tax statements, and online payment of taxes.
 
With the generous, voluntary cooperation of Haney Truck Line, Shaw Transport and Redmond Heavy Haul, the pilot demonstration of TRUE was successfully completed. During the pilot, TRUE devices, which are specially-configured Android-based mobile devices, were used in several trucks to test their reliability and accuracy tracking miles traveled in Oregon. (The devices recognize virtual perimeter geofences so that miles traveled outside the state are excluded.)
 
Drivers were instructed to enter the odometer reading, the truck/trailer combination’s declared weight, and the number of axles into the TRUE device at the beginning of each trip. That’s the only manual process involved in the pilot. As each truck traveled through Oregon, the devices sent GPS coordinates to ODOT’s Motor Carrier Transportation Division via cellular wireless two-way transmission. At MCTD, specially-designed software converts the data into a mileage record. The software also added location names and populated a map that only the company could access via a secure Oregon Trucking Online website. At the end of the tax reporting period, the software produced the company’s weight-mile tax report.
 
During this pilot project period, the companies continued their normal processes for keeping mileage records and filing weight-mile tax reports. This served as a control for the pilot helped confirm whether the automated TRUE process was as good as or better than their current process. Also during this period, ODOT used its weigh station records to match truck combination weights with reported declared weights.
 
What’s next?
"We have been more successful in this effort than we ever imagined we would be and therefore find ourselves in the position of being able to shut down our own TRUE development work much sooner than we originally thought would be the case," said Gregg Dal Ponte, MCTD administrator. "We are pleased to see the private sector firm EROAD stand up and successfully negotiate a signed agreement with the Oregon Trucking Association to collaborate on a pilot demonstration project for their product offering in Oregon."

Overview and background
The Truck Road Use Electronics project was a pilot project involving the Oregon Department of Transportation and trucking industry partners. The project tested a global positioning system device that automated the collection of Oregon’s truck weight-mile tax. The device tracked the miles a truck traveled in Oregon and sent the data to ODOT to produce the company’s weight-mile tax report and allow for online tax payment. The automated process was designed to replace record keeping paperwork while ensuring the greatest accuracy for road-use reporting. 
 
 
ODOT began the TRUE pilot project at the request of Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Highway and Transit Subcommittee. In a Transport Topics article in September 2008, Representative DeFazio said: “I’m very interested in a vehicle-mileage fee. I just don’t see it moving very quickly with passenger vehicles in the next reauthorization, but we may be able to move a little bit more quickly with commercials. . .  Commercial trucks are . . . already monitored and regulated very heavily. There are no privacy issues and many of the larger firms have GPS devices and they’re tracked already anyway.”
 
Earlier, in June 2008, Representative James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, expressed similar interest. He said he sees a need for a “two-tier approach” to raising money for future projects: maintaining the federal gasoline tax as the “cornerstone of financing through the Highway Trust Fund” but also identifying supplemental revenue sources such as charging a fee based on trip length and vehicle weight.
 
“This affects the stress put on the infrastructure — the roadways and the bridges — better than the amount of fuel purchased times cents per gallon,” he said. “It’s a tantalizing proposal that in addition to a user fee — the gas tax — that we charge by vehicle miles traveled, and to which I would add, weight.”
 
GPS devices for tracking miles traveled are in use today in a German tolling system. There, trucking companies wirelessly pay a toll for each truck’s autobahn distance traveled, number of axles, and emission category. Tolls are used for road improvements and new road construction. The consortium-administered system affects over 1.5 million trucks traveling 23 billion kilometers a year.
 
Watch a three minute video overview of the project (YouTube or 43MB wmv).
 
Oregon ideally suited for the project
Oregon is ideally suited for the TRUE pilot project because it relies on a weight-distance fee as the primary form of taxation for trucks over 26,000 pounds. Truck registration fees are relatively low and the state does not charge heavy trucks any fuel tax. Today 8,500 Oregon-based trucking companies and 13,000 out-of-state companies pay the weight-mile tax. When they register trucks they establish the highest operating weight, called the declared weight, for each truck combination. Companies then self-report the miles traveled in Oregon by each combination and pay taxes on a monthly or quarterly basis.
 
How does it work?
The TRUE team developed a computer application for receiving GPS coordinate signals from a modified smart phone device. At the start of trip, if the truck has more than one declared weight, the driver entered the weight of the combination and number of axles. As the truck traveled through the state, signals were received from the TRUE device and the application mapped and converted the coordinates to mileage totals. The application then took weight-mile tax rates and calculated the tax due for the miles traveled on Oregon roads.
 
The TRUE project offers the potential for significant regulatory streamlining. It eliminates paperwork, the most common complaint about any road-use tax whether it be fuel or weight-mile tax. TRUE also has the potential to save money for both ODOT and the trucking industry.

Contacts
 The TRUE pilot project is coordinated by ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding, with implementation by the Central Services Division’s Information Systems Branch and the Motor Carrier Transportation Division.
 
James Whitty, manager, Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding
Oregon Department of Transportation
(503) 986-4284 – James.M.Whitty@odot.state.or.us
 
Gina Salang, manager, Motor Carrier Applications Development, Information Systems
(503) 373-1289 – Gina.M.Salang@odot.state.or.us
 
Gregg Dal Ponte, administrator, Motor Carrier Transportation Division
(503) 378-6351 – Gregg.L.DalPonte@odot.state.or.us
 

Why a weight-mile tax?
road
There are three types of highway-use taxes and fees:
  1. Vehicle registration fees – Flat fees paid on an annual or biennial basis that are generally associated with the vehicle license plate.
  2. Fuel taxes – Taxes collected in cents per gallon of fuel purchased or used in a state.
  3. Third-structure taxes and fees – All other taxes and fees associated with the use of highways or operation of a vehicle, including ad valorem (property) taxes, tolls, weight-mile taxes, and other miscellaneous charges paid by the motoring public.
 

Because registration fees don’t reflect actual highway usage, and fuel consumption and fuel taxes don’t increase proportionately with increases in vehicle weight, a tax based on overall vehicle weight, number of axles, and distance traveled provides the most equitable way for road users to pay in proportion to the costs they impose on the system. Plus the weight-mile tax provides a stable source of highway funding.
 
A weight-mile tax allows all users to pay their fair share for highways. It provides for both horizontal and vertical equity. Owners of vehicles with equal highway wear characteristics pay the same amount of highway-use taxes. Heavier vehicles pay more than lighter ones.
 
A weight-mile tax doesn’t put intrastate operators at a competitive disadvantage compared with interstate operators. In states with high flat fees – registration fees, weight fees, ad valorem taxes, and other fees not related to vehicle miles traveled – intrastate carriers and all low-mileage vehicles can be disadvantaged if they pay significantly higher taxes per mile than interstate carriers.
 

Weight-mile tax history
cost allocation cover
Oregon first enacted a ton-mile tax on trucks in 1925. It replaced that with the weight-mile tax in 1947. In 1990 it implemented the first axle-based weight-mile tax for trucks over 80,000 lbs.
 
Today, Oregon is the only state that charges heavy trucks a weight-mile tax and no fuel tax. Three other states — New York, New Mexico, and Kentucky — have a weight-mile tax that they charge certain heavy trucks in conjunction with a fuel tax and other truck fees.
 
Historically, Oregon has stood by three principles of road user taxation:


  1. Road users pay for their highway system.
  2. Each category of highway user pays in proportion to the costs they impose on the system.
  3. Tax and fee revenue is used for construction, operation, and maintenance of highways.
 
Oregon’s truck tax system is designed to capture the trucking industry’s full cost responsibility. To determine each vehicle class’s cost responsibility, the state has completed 16 highway cost allocation studies; more than any other state. The first was done in 1937 and the most recent in 2009. The studies engage both motorists and truckers in an open process that uses an analytical, engineering-based approach to provide objective assessment of responsibilities by vehicle class. Legislators then decide how study results and recommendations will be implemented.
 
The major findings of the 2009 highway cost allocation study were that light vehicles (those weighing 10,000 lbs. or less) should pay 67.1 percent of state highway user revenues and heavy vehicles (those over 10,000 lbs.) should contribute 32.9 percent. For 2009 – 2011, under existing tax rates, light vehicles are projected to contribute 66.5 percent and heavy vehicles will contribute 33.5 percent. Thus, light vehicles are projected to underpay their responsibility by 0.8 percent and heavy vehicles are projected to overpay by 1.7 percent.