A report released last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says that a pilot program could be helpful in determining just how practical mileage-based user fees for vehicles (especially commercial trucks) would be.
GAO states that, while a mileage-based user fee system has been explored for all vehicles, Congress should specifically look at how this system would work for commercial trucks. These vehicles generally pay less in federal taxes than the road damage costs they inflict, according to estimates produced by Federal Highway Administration in 2000.
GAO notes, however, that 12-year-old FHWA estimates may no longer be relevant, which hinders the ability for any real decisions to be made on the viability of mileage-based user fees. If Congress were serious about exploring mileage-based user fees as a real option for transportation funding, a pilot program would be a good idea to get the most updated numbers possible and to see if this would be a strong revenue source.
"In the absence of periodically updated estimates from FHWA, Congress lacks the information necessary to determine whether revenues collected from different users are sufficient to cover the costs of their road use," the report states. "Should Congress wish to explore mileage fees, or other sources of revenue, updated information would allow it to consider the costs imposed by different users in setting appropriate rates."
The report also states that electric vehicles should also undergo a mileage-based user fee pilot program if the system were to be explored as a transportation funding source.
In response to the report, the U.S. Department of Transportation did not take a position on the matter, though it did provide technical comments, some of which were incorporated by GAO into the report.
The full 81-page report is available at bit.ly/GAOmilefee.