International Truck Pilot Highlights the Need for a Transparent and Scalable Approach that Links Road Use and Payment

| September 12, 2023

The Eastern Transportation Coalition brings the perspectives of the motor carrier industry center stage to collaboratively shape the future of transportation funding

In an era of transformative shifts in transportation, The Eastern Transportation Coalition (Coalition) emerges as a pivotal leader in identifying transparent, sustainable, and forward-thinking funding solutions. The Coalition unveils the findings of its International mileage-based Truck Pilot (ITP), the first of its kind, highlighting the potential of a Mileage-Based User Fee (MBUF) to reestablish the link between use and payment of the transportation system.

The Coalition’s real-world pilot, conducted from June to November 2022, included more than 250 diverse commercial vehicles, recording more than eight million miles covering all 48 contiguous U.S. states and four Canadian Provinces. The work built on the Coalition’s previous pilots by exploring how a mileage-based user fee (MBUF) could account for the complexities of the trucking industry. The work was conducted under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Systems Funding Alternative (STSFA) program.

As America’s transportation landscape evolves with technological advancements, the traditional fuel tax funding model is strained by increased fuel efficiency and the growing presence of electric vehicles. Since 2018, the Coalition has explored MBUF – as an alternative to the fuel tax – through nine passenger vehicle pilots and three commercial vehicle pilots, public opinion surveys, focus groups, and data analysis. With a neutral stance on MBUF as the ultimate solution, the Coalition’s emphasis lies in equipping decision makers with information about how all users could pay for transportation.

From the beginning, the Coalition has championed the inclusion of the trucking industry’s voice in the national conversation surrounding MBUF. Acknowledging the industry’s indispensable role in sustaining both our daily lives and the nation’s economy, the Coalition has strategically worked to bridge the gap between stakeholders, policymakers, and industry experts. The outcome is innovative strategies that not only address challenges faced by the trucking sector but also enrich the broader transportation network.

“Central to the Coalition’s mission is its commitment to cultivating open dialogue and transparency throughout the decision-making process. By fostering collaboration among stakeholders, the Coalition envisions pioneering innovative solutions that drive progress reflective of the complex trucking industry and the evolving needs of our transportation system,” said Dr. Patricia Hendren, Executive Director of the Coalition.

“Looking for dollars to support our nation’s infrastructure is not an easy task and no stone should be left unturned.  However, any mechanism, including a Mileage-Based User Fee (MBUF), needs to be fully vetted to determine whether it is a viable option to consider in the future,” said David Heller, Senior Vice President of Safety and Government Affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). 

“Results from this international pilot underscore the potential of MBUF as a catalyst for a transparent and scalable highway funding solution. Insights reveal the adaptability of the current motor carrier framework for MBUF implementation, demonstrating that a weight-based approach could establish a clear link between road usage and costs,” Hendren continued. “Our work, guided by the MBUF Motor Carrier working group and MBUF Steering Committee, has shown there is an intersection between the trucking industry’s desire for uniformity, scalability, and streamlined administrative processes and our country’s need for sustainable highway funding.”

The Coalition’s four major findings from the newly published report (listed below) are further explained in the full report available on the Coalition’s MBUF website:

  1. MBUF can be applied to all commercial vehicles regardless of weight, fuel type, international travel, and type of operation.
  2. A Weight-Based MBUF has the Potential to Provide a More Transparent Link Between Usage and Cost of Road Use.
  3. Uniformity does not have to be identical to be scalable and has the potential to substantially decrease administrative costs on both the motor carrier and agency sides.
  4. Clearinghouse Frameworks Can be Adapted to Handle MBUF But Roles and Responsibilities Need to be Clearly Defined

Bill Sullivan, Executive Vice President for Advocacy for the American Trucking Association concurred with the findings. “The Coalition’s report provides valuable insight on critical issues that must be resolved before a mileage-based user fee can be assessed on the trucking industry. The pilot program’s findings highlight that the diversity, complexity, and interstate nature of trucking makes imposition of a VMT fee a far more difficult proposition than for other vehicles. The report identifies many of these issues and provides a roadmap toward resolving the challenges that must be overcome. ATA will continue to support the Coalition’s efforts to identify and address the many yet unresolved barriers to implementation.” Sullivan said.

“TETC has consistently conducted research that takes the concerns of small trucking businesses seriously. This is no easy feat. Many small business truckers are leery of anyone talking about the potential conversion to a mileage-based system to fund our highway infrastructure, largely because they fear the system will not reflect factors unique to their operations,” said Todd Spencer, President OOIDA. “Over the years, TETC has demonstrated to OOIDA that understanding and addressing our members’ concerns is a critical aspect of determining the viability of MBUF. This commitment is reflected throughout their latest MBUF truck report. We commend TETC for producing another clear and honest report and look forward to remaining an active participant in their ongoing research and outreach.” Spencer continued.

 “Working with TETC on the most recent report continues to be a rewarding process that reflects the details and concerns that have been discussed by our members. TCA looks forward to being part of these essential discussions in an effort to support the Coalition’s critical work to identify and address the issues that ultimately reflect the needs of our nation’s professional truck drivers and the roads they operate on,” said Heller.

The Coalition emphasizes that while MBUF has potential, key challenges and considerations must be addressed before implementation. Moving ahead, the Coalition, under the STSFA grant program, will focus on comprehensive role reviews, lighter truck and intrastate MBUF impact assessment, fee consolidation feasibility, weight definition complexities, and alternatively powered commercial motor vehicle participation.

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