Frequently Asked Questions – 2012/13 Pilot Project

Below are some common questions about the Road Usage Charge Pilot Project (click on the question below to be taken to the answer or scroll down the page):

 

1. How user friendly was this system?

The road usage charge system that was evaluated in the 2012-13 pilot project was designed to be easy to use. It involved just 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Choose the plan.

Three different plans were offered as part of the pilot, each with a different technology option and payment method. Drivers had the choice to report miles using a Smartphone, geographic positioning system (GPS) devices, or simple reporting devices with no GPS technology; or they could opt out of using high technology all together by paying a flat rate in lieu of a fee per mile traveled.

Step 2: Plug in the device that reports the number of miles traveled. 

Drivers who chose one of the plans that involved paying by the mile plugged in a small (about 2 inches square) device into the vehicle’s “diagnostic port” generally found underneath the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car (the exact location varies from one vehicle to another). This device, designed and made by a number of private companies, reports the number of miles traveled. Pilot participants who had trouble finding the location of their vehicle’s diagnostic port were able to get help by calling a toll-free help line. Once the port was located, it only takes a second to plug in the device, much the same way as plugging a jump drive into a computer.

Step 3: Pay the bill.

Depending on the plan chosen, pilot participants received a monthly bill from either a private Certified Service Provider (Sanef) or ODOT.  It was ODOT’s goal to involve private companies as much as possible in delivering the technology and services required to operate this new system. Pilot participants had the option to pay by check or credit/debit card depending on the plan selected.

 

2. How exactly was mileage reported during the pilot project?

The data from the mileage reporting device or Smartphone (depending on the plan) was transferred to a private Certified Service Provider (Sanef) via wireless communications (e.g., WiFi, 3G, 4G). Sanef then collected the mileage data and fuel usage information to develop an invoice that was sent out on a monthly basis.

 

3. How complicated was it to pay the bill?

In much the same way as with cell phone service, a bill arrived by email or regular mail (depending on the plan chosen) each month. Depending on the plan chosen, drivers then paid by check or online with a debit/credit card.

 

4. What about privacy?

ODOT took every precaution to protect driver privacy during the pilot project and is committed to protecting privacy in the future. Pilot participants had the option, for example, to choose plans that did not utilize GPS technology. They could instead choose a mileage reporting device without GPS that simply reports miles driven or pay a flat fee each month.

For the plans that did involve GPS, the equipment and service was provided by a private firm (Sanef) and ODOT did not have access to the GPS data (e.g., specific routes taken), only the total miles driven. Private service providers were vetted by ODOT as financially stable companies with acceptable privacy protection policies. In a future road usage charge system, these service providers would sign agreements to abide by strict privacy policies and procedures, including keeping all personally identifiable information private. These providers would be periodically audited by ODOT for compliance with agreed-upon procedures.

 

5. Wasn’t it easy for drivers to tamper with the mileage reporting device to reduce their fees?

No, tampering with the device was difficult since the mileage reporting device had tamper detection/fraud resistance capabilities, including the ability to record data indicating it had been:

  • Disconnected from the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port;
  • Installed in a different vehicle;
  • Other anomalies that indicate possible tampering or attempted alteration of data.

 

6. How accurate were the mileage reporting devices used in the pilot project?

The number of miles reported by the basic mileage devices was very close to, if not exactly the same as, the number recorded by the odometer.  However, the mileage recorded by the basic device may not have been the same as mileage calculated by the advanced or Smartphone plans, which utilized GPS technology and electronic mapping. That is because all measuring instruments have some degree of error. For example, Honda reports the tolerance of their odometers as +/- 2.5%. It is not unusual for the actual mileage (as measured by GPS-enabled devices) to be lower than that indicated by the odometer. Possible reasons for this difference 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.)

7. What about driving outside of Oregon or drivers from other states?

For 2012-13 pilot participants, out-of-state travel was handled in two ways. If a participant chose a plan that didn’t use GPS, they were charged for all miles driven (as the device only reported total miles and did not differentiate where they were driven). If a participant chose a plan with GPS, they were only charged for miles driven in Oregon.  Miles driven out of state were deducted from the total reported miles.

If a road usage charge system is implemented statewide, drivers of highly fuel -efficient vehicles from other states would continue to pay fuel taxes for any gas purchased in Oregon just as they do today. If other states adopt similar road usage charge systems, integration with those systems might be possible.

 

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