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  • US state trials pay-per-mile

    The US state of Oregon is to start an experiment in replacing fuel taxes with a distance-based charge. The experiment could be the start of a US-wide switch to ‘pay-per-mile’ charging, but buyers of fuel-efficient cars say the new scheme discriminates against the investments they have made in cleaner technology, and civil liberties groups say they have concerns about the satellite data that would be collected.

    From 1 July, volunteers in the west coast state are being asked to register with OreGo, a scheme in which they sign up with a satellite-tracking device that collects data on how much they have driven and on which roads. Those who sign up will then be charged for any driving within Oregon, but will get the tax they have paid on fuel refunded.

    The motivation for the experiment has come from the fact that increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles are reducing the state’s income from road taxes. While the costs of building roads and bridges are going up, revenue from motorists and hauliers is going down as the numbers of electric and hybrid vehicles increase.

    Owners and promoters of such cars say the move to distance-based charging provides a disincentive to buy cleaner vehicles. State officials counter this by saying cleaner vehicles do as much damage to roads and make as much use of lighting and signage as petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles, so all owners should pay for the maintenance of the road infrastructure. Civil liberties groups raised questions about privacy and government surveillance, but the Oregon authorities say any ‘pay-per-mile’ data will be erased after 30 days and not handed to the police or justice officials unless under the order of a judge.

    T&E’s transport programme manager, William Todts, said: ‘Taxing drivers for the distance they drive could be very beneficial as long as the charge is differentiated on the basis of emissions and other external costs. Cars and particularly lorries don’t currently pay for all the costs they cause for society, and the cost to the economy of air pollution, climate change, noise and road damage is growing steadily.’

    The proposed charge in Oregon is 1.5 cents (US) per mile, which is around 0.85 cent in euros per kilometre.

    Meanwhile, in Indonesia the Jakarta provincial government is embarking on a public campaign to educate motorists on its electronic road pricing system. In a bid to keep the vehicle population down and ease traffic congestion, the capital wants to implement the system by the end of 2015.