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Frequently Asked Questions

Getting to know the pilot program

How does this program work?
 

Pilot participants choose whether they want to 1) report miles driven directly from the vehicle or 2) pay a pre-paid flat rate and not report miles driven. 

For reporting miles driven directly from the vehicle, pilot participants will choose a device from among three options. The mileage reporting device will read mileage information from the vehicle and periodically report this data wirelessly to the road charge processor along with the vehicle’s identification number and fuel usage (if available for the particular vehicle model). Account management services will be provided by either ODOT or a private sector firm chosen by the participant. (Sanef is the private sector firm ODOT is using for the pilot.) The road charge processor will calculate the charge and the fuel tax credit (if applicable), and send the participant an invoice for payment or a statement of credit due.

To avoid reporting of miles directly from the vehicle altogether, participants may opt into a pre-paid flat rate plan whereby the participant pays a fee upfront that purchases unlimited miles for the reporting period.

For more information, see the Background and details paper.

 

How are my “miles driven” calculated?
Participants in the Road Usage Charge (RUC) pilot choose from four options, called “plans,” to report their miles and pay the road usage charge. Three of these options will involve an on-board mileage reporting device that collects mileage automatically when the device is installed in the vehicle’s On Board Diagnostics II (OBD-II) port.
 
1.   Basic Plan: The mileage reporting device used in this plan contains no GPS (Global Positioning System) technology and reports all miles driven. Miles driven outside Oregon or on private roads are lumped together with instate miles and not separately recorded under this plan. A participant choosing this option will pay the road usage charge on all miles driven. This is a good option for those who drive only in Oregon and/or do not want a device that has GPS in it.
 
2.   Smartphone Plan: This option involves use of a device similar to the Basic plan. The device contains no GPS technology but has the ability to wirelessly connect through an app to an Android smartphone with GPS so the motorist can exclude miles driven out of state by using the app. Participants with an Android smart phone will download an app onto their phone and pair it with the Basic mileage recording device when they want to exclude miles driven out of state from the road usage charge.
 
3.   Advanced Plan: This option involves a mileage reporting device that uses GPS and electronic mapping to distinguish between miles driven in state and out of state by detecting when the Oregon state line has been crossed. It also excludes miles driven on private roads. Participants may want this plan if they frequently travel outside Oregon or on private land or private roads in Oregon. Participants who choose this option will only pay the road usage charge on miles driven on public roads in Oregon.
 
4.   Pre-paid Flat Rate Plan: The fourth option does not involve technology at all. The Pre-paid Flat Rate Plan allows participants to pay a flat fee for unlimited mileage instead of installing a device. The flat fee will be $45 times the number of months in the pilot; participating for three months means the participant will pay $135. After a participant pays the flat rate, that will be the end of his involvement in the pilot. A person choosing this option simply buys unlimited mileage under the program, but still pays the gas tax at the pump.
 
How is my privacy protected?
How a participant’s privacy will be protected depends upon the plan the participant chooses for reporting mileage.  
 
Under the Basic Plan, the mileage reporting device does not include any location capabilities. In fact, the Basic device requirements contractually set by ODOT don’t allow such capability in the device even if disabled. The information sent from the Basic device includes the Vehicle Identification Number, miles driven per day, and the estimated fuel consumed per day – information that is necessary for processing the road usage charge and updating the participant's account. This does not include any information that would allow anyone to track the movements of the vehicle. The Basic device does not record any information regarding one’s driving habits (e.g., acceleration and braking).
 
Under the Smartphone Plan, the mileage reporting device does not contain any location capabilities, but when the smartphone app is activated by the participant, GPS capability in the phone will be activated for the purpose of differentiating between in-state and out-of-state miles. The information sent back from the device is the same as the Basic device, with an additional data element for the number of miles driven in Oregon per day. No location or tracking information  (e.g., latitude, longitude, routes taken) is transmitted. The smartphone device does not record any information regarding one's driving habits (e.g., acceleration and braking).
  
Under the Advanced Plan, the mileage reporting device does include GPS capability and differentiates between in-state and out-of-state miles and which miles within Oregon are on public roads. The information sent back from the Advanced device is the same as the Basic device, with an additional data element for the number of miles driven in Oregon per day. No location or tracking information (e.g., latitude, longitude, routes taken) is transmitted. The Advanced device does not record any information regarding one’s driving habits (e.g., acceleration and braking).
 
Protection of personal data entered into the participant's account is another important privacy consideration. This “personally identifiable information” includes such data as a person’s mileage, road usage charge account number, address, telephone number, electronic mail address, license plate number, bank account information, and credit card number. Per the ODOT privacy protection policy, ODOT (or any third-party entity that has entered into an agreement with ODOT for reporting miles traveled or for RUC account management) cannot release this personally identifiable information except to the following:
  • the registered owner or lessee of the vehicle
  • a financial institution for the purpose of collecting the road usage charge
  • a law enforcement officer who is acting in the officer’s official capacity in connection with enforcement of the road usage charging system
Electronic security of the message transmissions is another vital aspect of privacy protection. No security measures are included in this pilot, but they will be important for full implementation.
 
 
Will the usage charge cost more than the gas tax?
It depends on the vehicle’s fuel economy (miles per gallon) and the participant's driving habits (e.g., how fast, amount of congestion, etc.). At the rate of 1.56 cents per mile, vehicles with an average fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon or higher will pay more with the usage charge than with the fuel tax. To explore whether a vehicle use is likely to result in tax payment or refund, a calculator is available on the website. To get information on the EPA’s average MPG rating for a vehicle, visit www.fueleconomy.gov.
 
What sort of training do participants receive?
Setting up the RUC account and installing the mileage reporting device is quite simple. No formal training is required. “How to” documentation will be provided for setting up a Road Usage Charge account and installing the mileage reporting device. If there are any questions or issues, the Help Desk is available via phone or email, M-F, 7 AM – 9 PM and 10 AM – 2 PM on weekends and holidays. The Help Desk phone numbers and email addresses are included in the box containing the mileage reporting device.
 
How much time is required for the program?
Setting up an RUC account and installing the mileage reporting device should not take more than a few minutes each. After this initial work, the only other time required is in reviewing and paying monthly invoices and participating in three surveys.
 
What happens if a participant drives outside of Oregon?
It depends on the plan. The Basic Plan provides a mileage reporting device with no location-determination capability, in which case all mileage driven – including mileage driven out of state – will be charged. A plan with an Advanced device or a Smart Phone App (with location-determination electronics such as GPS) will identify any out-of-state mileage and participants will not be charged for these miles. There is no distinction between in-state and out-of-state mileage with the prepaid Flat Rate option.
 
Do participants have to pay for miles driven on private roads or for off-road driving?
It depends on the plan. The Basic Plan provides a mileage reporting device with no location-determination capability, in which case all mileage driven – including mileage driven on private roads or off road – will be charged. The Advanced provides a mileage reporting device with location-determination electronics such as GPS and will count only that mileage driven on public roads in Oregon. The Smart Phone Plan does not distinguish between public and private roads within Oregon, but is expected to in the future. There is no distinction between public road and private road mileage with the Prepaid Flat Rate Plan.
 
Will participants still have to pay gas tax?
If the car uses gas, the Oregon and federal gas tax will still be paid at the pump. However, there will be a credit on the monthly statement for the estimated amount of Oregon gas tax paid during the month. This does not apply to the prepaid Flat Rate option for which there will be no credit for gas tax paid.
 
If a car uses diesel, does that make a difference?
Participants with diesel-powered vehicles will receive an emblem that exempts them from paying the Oregon fuel tax at the pump, in most cases (otherwise, participants must save receipts and submit). As such, there will be no fuel tax credit provided for participants with diesel-powered vehicles.
 
How are fuel consumption and gas tax paid calculated?
Fuel consumption will be estimated in one of two ways, depending on the capability of the vehicle:
·     Calculated by the mileage recording device based on vehicle information obtained via the vehicle electronics; or
·     If the necessary information is not available via the vehicle interface – as may be the case for some makes and models – the total miles driven will be divided by the EPA estimates of the average MPG for the specific vehicle make, model, and year.
 
To calculate the gas tax paid and the associated credit, the fuel consumption (calculated based on one of the two methods mentioned above) will be multiplied by 30 cents per gallon (the Oregon state fuel tax). This value will be pro-rated based on the number of miles driven in Oregon compared to the total miles driven for those participants choosing a plan with the Advanced device and differentiated mileage. This does not apply to diesel-powered vehicles.
 
How will any net credit be received?
The RUCPP includes nearly all types of vehicles regardless of the type of power (e.g., electric, hybrid, internal combustion engine) or average gas mileage. As a result, those participants that average less than 20 mpg during the pilot will end up with a net credit – that is, the fuel tax credit will be greater than the mileage-based road usage charge. This will show up in the monthly statement with no payment being required. The credit will accumulate throughout the pilot, and will be paid to the participant within six weeks following the end of the pilot.
 
How will data be transferred?
The data from the mileage reporting device is transferred to the Data Collection / Road Charge Processing component via wireless communications (e.g., WiFi, 3G, 4G). On the Smart Phone Plan, the data is transmitted from the device to the Smart Phone via Bluetooth, and then wirelessly to the Road Charge Processing entity.
 
Where did 1.56 cents per mile rate come from?
The rate of 1.56 cents per mile was developed by the House Revenue Committee economist based on what the average motor vehicle pays in gas tax. It is based on the current Oregon fuel tax, the average MPG for vehicles registered in Oregon, and the additional cost to collect the RUC (as compared to the fuel tax). It provides initial revenue neutrality.
 
How does the pilot differ for Washington and Nevada residents?
  • Washington and Nevada, in fact nearly all states, are experiencing a reduction in fuel tax revenues for maintaining and operating their transportation networks. Both Washington and Nevada are studying funding alternatives, and the Oregon pilot offers an excellent opportunity for their neighboring states to have a "hands on" experience with this proof of concept effort. The only differences for Nevada and Washington participants are:
    • Only the Sanef Advanced and Sanef Basic Plans are available.
    • Washington and Nevada participants will receive "illustrative invoices," showing total miles driven, chargeable miles driven in state (for the Advanced Plans) and the fuel tax credit (based on the state-specific fuel tax). Washington and Nevada residents will not actually pay the invoice or receive a net credit.
    • Washington and Nevada participants who drive diesel vehicles will not be able to participate in this pilot.

 

 

Understanding the mileage reporting device

What is a mileage reporting device and what are the pros and cons of choosing this option?
A mileage reporting device (also called an “On Board Unit” or “OBU”) is a device physically installed in the vehicle’s diagnostic port* (also called and On-board Diagnostics II (OBD-II) port). The device collects data from the vehicle electronics including the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the number of miles driven each day by the vehicle, and an estimate of the fuel usage per day. This is the same type of technology that is being used and developed for the Pay As You Drive insurance industry.
 
 
Three types of mileage reporting devices will be used in the RUCPP:
 
·     Basic – The Basic device possesses no location-determination electronics or capability such as GPS. It obtains mileage undifferentiated by location mileage and other data from the vehicle’s electronics – the same electronics that are used by the vehicle’s odometer. This “total mileage” approach has been developed in light of concerns by some members of the motoring public regarding privacy and the perception that their movements may be tracked. The disadvantage with the Basic device (associated with the Basic Plan) is that the road usage charge is applied to all miles driven, including those outside of Oregon and on private roads or off road. 
 
·     Advanced PlanThe Advanced device includes location-determining technology such as GPS, thereby allowing Responsible Parties to differentiate their mileage by geographic location, including out-of-state travel. The Advanced device can measure the vehicle’s mileage based on the vehicle’s changing location; or the mileage can be recorded from the OBD-II port with the Advanced device recognizing if and when the vehicle is being driven outside of Oregon, or if it being driven on private property or off road, depending on the accuracy of the mapping database. The advantage of the Advanced device is that the user is not charged for these out of state or private road miles. The charge is applied only to the miles driven on public roads in Oregon. Privacy should not be a concern either, as no location data or route information is transmitted to the Road Charge Processing component or to ODOT.
 
·     SmartphoneThe smartphone with an RUCPP app links to a Basic device and uses the GPS capability of the Smart Phone to “convert” the Basic device to an Advanced device, identifying when the car is traveling out of state. This is advantageous to those individuals who generally don’t travel out of state but do not want to be charged for such mileage when they do leave the state.  
 
 
*In addition to collecting the vehicle identification number (VIN), mileage data and fuel information, the mileage reporting device provides other functions including managing the vehicle’s power so as to not drain the battery; transmitting the information to the Data Collector or the Road Charge Processing component via wireless communications; and detecting any tampering or potential fraud (for example, identifying and recording if and when it is disconnected from the OBD-II port).
 
 
If a plan using a mileage reporting device is chosen, how is it plugged into the vehicle?
The mileage reporting device plugs into a vehicle’s OBD-II (On-board Diagnostics II) port – a 16-pin connecter (outlet) typically located on the driver’s side underneath the dashboard. Exact locations may vary from vehicle to vehicle and can sometimes be covered. It should fit securely so it does not fall out during vehicle operation. The Help Desk is available for additional assistance. 
 

How accurate is the mileage reporting device in calculating mileage?

The mileage from the device should be similar if not the same as recorded by the odometer. It may not always be identical, as odometer data are not available on the OBD-II for all vehicles, in which case speedometer data and other information must be used to calculate the mileage driven. In addition, the mileage recorded by the device might not be the same as mileage calculated by GPS or by the use of mapping tools. This is because all measuring instruments have some degree of error. For example, Honda reports the tolerance of their odometers as plus or minus 2.5%. It is not unusual for the actual mileage (as measured by a GPS or map) to be lower than that indicated by the odometer. Possible reasons for this difference can include tire pressure and wear (as the odometer is configured to a specific tire radius), and road surface conditions (e.g., wet surfaces can cause slippage and therefore affect the odometer mileage.)

 

How do you know if the mileage reporting device is working?

The mileage reporting device includes one or more indicator lights to show the device is plugged in and working properly. As a general rule, if the lights are not illuminated when the vehicle is running, the Help Desk will need to get involved. Additionally, the mileage reporting device has self-diagnostic capabilities and may automatically report a problem to the RCP, in which case the Help Desk will contact the participant.

 

How will you make sure drivers don’t tamper with their mileage reporting devices?

For the pilot, participants have agreed to help us gather honest information. In a real setting, compliance with the Road Usage Charging system is of great importance to its overall success. Compliance will consist of three major activities: education, audits, and enforcement. As part of the enforcement effort, the mileage reporting devices will have tamper detection/fraud resistance capabilities, including the ability of the device to record if it is disconnected from the OBD-II port; if it is installed in another vehicle; and if it detects any anomalies which may indicate possible tampering or attempted fraudulent alteration of monitored data.

 

What happens if the device just falls out by itself?

Just plug it back in; it will determine how many miles were driven between the time it fell out and the time it was re-installed. 

 

Will the mileage recording device work in all vehicles?

The OBD-II has been a requirement in all U.S. vehicles since 1996 and on most internationally built vehicles since about 2000. Most vehicle models from 2004 or later will be compatible with the devices, although there may be some vehicles that are not. Participants will be notified if they are ineligible to join the pilot.

 

What the mileage recording device is lost or breaks?

The Help Desk should be contacted immediately, and a new one will be provided. In some cases, the RUC service provider may know of a mileage reporting device malfunction before the particpant does (as a result of the self-diagnostic capabilities of the device), in which case the Help Desk will contact the participant.

 

What happens when the car is taken in for maintenance or for inspection?

The diagnostic port (OBD-II port) gives a repair technician access to “state of health” information for various vehicle subsystems. The participant will want to tell the service staff that a device is installed in the OBD-II port, that it is OK to remove the device for service, and to re-install the device before the car is driven.

 

What if there is already a device installed in the OBD-II port for Pay as You Drive insurance, or if a participant is planning to sign up for PAYD during the pilot?

Unfortunately, the diagnostic port (OBD-II) port can support only one plug-in device. As such, if a participant has PAYD insurance, participation in the pilot will likely not be possible as the insurance device would have to be unplugged. The long term vision is to work with insurance companies and develop agreements such that the Road Usage Charge is a “value added” to their PAYD services, with the same device serving both functions.

 

Using the smartphone app

How is the smartphone app downloaded?
The app and installation instructions will be emailed to participants choosing this option.
 
Does the smartphone app automatically start, or must it be turned on manually?
As with any other application, the ACEO application icon must be "clicked" to start it initially. ACEO stands for Automatic Calibrating Electronic Odometer. The application should stay running “in the background” but it's important to note that application processing and periodic Bluetooth querying could impact phone battery duration. If the App is turned off manually, it must be turned on again manually to accumulate mileage based on location (e.g., to identify out of state mileage).
 
Can the smartphone be used while the app is on? What functions might be limited?
Any other smartphone applications may be used while the ACEO application is on. The ACEO application uses a Bluetooth standard that allows multiple simultaneous connections. Please note that the ACEO uses the GPS capability of the Smart Phone and, as is the case with most applications, requires smartphone resources such as processing and power.
 
Why can’t an iPhone be used for this project?
The ACEO application currently only works on Android phones. Future demonstrations will support the development and testing of an iPhone app.