Transitioning Fuel Tax Assessments to a Road Usage Charge

State departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies are interested in determining a viable alternative to motor fuel taxes as the primary funding source for transportation. While motor fuel taxes served as an effective and efficient revenue source during much of the 20th century, automobile and truck fuel efficiency is improving and electric and hybrid vehicle registrations are growing rapidly, thus eroding the funding base. In addition, the federal motor fuel tax has not been increased since 1992. The costs for transportation system maintenance and improvements require adequate, reliable funding that is socially equitable. Road usage charging could provide a funding mechanism for surface transportation. For the past two decades, a number of states throughout the United States have been considering and, more recently, pilot testing road usage charging. Some initiatives have been state-based and others involve multi-state consortia. A key conclusion of the efforts, to date, is that while a road usage charge funding approach can work, implementation will be complicated. Many possible paths for implementation exist. The figure below highlights some of the options for road usage charging (RUC) implementation currently being considered.  Some implementation strategies will require new and emerging technologies to administer road usage charge programs for passenger and commercial vehicles. These technologies, which in some cases are still evolving, have implications for revenue collection, revenue distribution across jurisdictions, enforcement, administrative efficiency, equity, privacy, and data security. Implementation of appropriate technologies and administrative protocols necessitates many considerations and presents challenges.    Challenges related to political and public acceptance of road usage charging cannot be overstated. Implementation will require effective communication and education at many levels. The public and policy makers must see proposed changes in transportation funding as fair, transparent, and equitable because the charges will be borne across all social and economic parts of society.  Research is needed to help the many partners and stakeholders in the public and private sectors understand the implications and outcomes of road usage charging. These include, but are not limited to, state and local DOTs, departments of motor vehicles, commissions, state legislatures, vehicle manufacturers, transportation construction industry, tolling authorities, driver advocacy groups, and those tasked with defining the technical and institutional elements needed to implement road usage charging programs. The objective of this research is to evaluate and present viable paths and strategies for implementing road usage charging at the state, multi-state, and regional levels that generate revenues that could supplement, and/or may ultimately replace, motor fuel taxes as the primary funding source for surface transportation. The research should consider the differences among states and the near- and longer-term considerations and challenges to changes in transportation funding. The research should build on the evolving innovations for domestic and international research and experiences that may provide a basis for establishing road usage charging as a more sustainable funding mechanism for transportation expenditures and investments. 


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $600000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 19-18

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20210223
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01739571
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 19-18
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 18 2020 3:06PM