Think Miles, Not Gallons, to Fund Missouri’s Roads
Yesterday I discussed how the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) has exposed flaws in Missouri’s system of funding road and highway maintenance. Fuel taxes and registration fees are inadequate proxies for the damage these vehicles do to our roads, highways, and bridges. As more EVs hit the road, the problem will only worsen. But what ways are there to connect the fees drivers pay with the actual damage they do rather than the amount and type of fuel their vehicles consume?
A more accurate proxy for a road-damage fee would seem to be one based on the number of miles a vehicle is actually driven and the weight of that vehicle. How could such a system be implemented?
One of the simplest ways to assess how much someone has driven is by taking an odometer reading.
There are several ways this could be done. Drivers could self-report their odometer readings either as part of the annual registration process or at any other established time. Alternatively, a recording device could be plugged into the diagnostics port of most vehicles to measure the miles driven. This is the method employed by several states that have initiated road usage charge programs. As drivers pay for the miles driven, they are then reimbursed for the gas taxes they paid to travel those miles.
Recording miles traveled through odometer readings poses no threat to driver privacy, as even when a device is used to record mileage it does not track the vehicle’s movement.
There are a couple disadvantages to calculating miles traveled through odometer readings. This method could be impractical and arguably unfair for people who frequently drive out of state, as they would be charged for those miles too. In addition, many older cars don’t have a diagnostic port, and thus wouldn’t be able to accommodate a device used to track their miles.
Reading odometers is straightforward and raises no privacy issues; for those who don’t do much driving out of state, it has a lot of advantages. In the next post I’ll discuss one of the more controversial methods of measuring miles driven.