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Highway funding ideas include taxes on hybrids

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Comments

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    A 1600 pound geo metro should not be charged as much for road maintenance as A 6000 pound SUV

    Do you have any kind of scientific study that will give your assumption basis? Or is this a hunch? My understanding is weather, studded tires and semi trucks cause the most wear and tear.

    How do you justify the tax disparity between a Civic getting 30 MPG and a Civic Hybrid getting 50 MPG? The Civic Hybrid is a bit heavier. The Civic non-hybrid driver pays 40% more gas tax.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    gary says "The Civic non-hybrid driver pays 40% more gas tax."

    The owner of the higher polluting vehicle gets punished. More pollution costs the government more money in regulation and cleanup costs.

    Sounds fair to me.
  • I'll agree that it isn't perfectly fair that the driver of a hybrid civic doesn't have to pay as much road taxes as the driver of a regular civic. This injustice is small though, compared to the huge injustice of a 6000Lb vehicle paying the same per mile road tax as A 1600LB geo metro.

    Several different state DOTs have studied the effects of heavier vehicles on road surfaces. These studies focus mostly on fully loaded semis of course because they are the heavyest things on the road. The Louisiana DOT says that "Pavement damage increases exponentially with the weight of a truck. For example, one 80,000-pound five-axle truck does the same road damage as 9,600 automobiles"
    One 80,000 pound truck (which is what freeways are designed to carry) causes as much damage as 28,800,000 pounds of passenger cars (if the average car is considered to be 3,000 pounds).
    It takes a bit of googling, but there are many studies that show that these effects scale down to the weight difference between a subcompact car and a full sized SUV quite nicely. In all of my googling, I found not one single study that even suggested that there was no difference in the damaged inflicted on road surfaces by different weight vehicles.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    The reason I question the weight thing between say a 2500 lb car and a 5000 lb car, it is lb per square inch that would determine the damage to a road surface.

    Doesn't a Low rolling resistance tire exert more pressure on the road than a fat tire design for a soft ride? I believe a hybrid with the tire pressure at 50 lbs will put more concentrated pressure on the road than a PU tire with 30 lb pressure.

    The one study I read said that the Interstate highways were designed to handle 80k lb semi trucks and smaller vehicles were not capable of doing any damage to the road. The only exception I can think of is studded tires to damage the highways no matter what size the car.
  • Here is where the physics gets interesting.
    when a weight is placed on a given surface, the force applied to that surface begins to spread out and downward through that surface at an angle corresponding to that material's natural angle of repose.
    for ease of calculation, let us assume that the force would spread out and downward through A 1 foot thick non reinforced concrete surface at a 45 degree angle. Next we set a 1000LB weight on that concrete surface that has a 12 inch by 12 inch contact patch. As the weight from that object is transferred outward and downward through that 1 foot thick concrete, it is spread out to cover an area of approximately 3 feet by 3 feet. The pressure imposed on the road underlayment under that concrete is about .77 pounds per square inch.
    If we put a 4000LB weight with a contact patch measuring 24" by 24", the weight transferred through that 1 foot thick concrete road surface, to the ground beneath, would be 1.73 pounds per square inch.
    This calculation shows how 2 different weights that exert the exact same PSI at their contact patch, can exert radically different PSIs to the road underlayment.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    I guess a point where we can agree is making the cost per mile based on weight of the vehicle. If it is made strictly by weight we will be paying $100 a pound to have our tomatoes delivered to the store. I think the direction Oregon is going is more in line with the HOV lanes in CA. They charge a price based on traffic volume. The busier the highway the higher per mile charge. I think that is how they do Fastrack highways around here. That becomes even more challenging for the folks keeping tabs. I can see changes coming though.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I could be wrong on this but I'd always heard that the majority of road damage is cause by weather and the elements. That portion has to be spread evenly amongst all drivers. So even if heavier vehicles caused twice the damage of lighter vehicles it still shouldn't equate to them having to pay twice as much for road maintenance.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    ""Pavement damage increases exponentially with the weight of a truck. For example, one 80,000-pound five-axle truck does the same road damage as 9,600 automobiles"

    Yes. But I think you draw the wrong conclusions.

    Let's assume the "9,600 automobiles" was based on an average weight of 3000lb vehicles. And let's further assume that a vehicle twice as heavy (6000 lb SUV) does 4x the damage of the 3000 lb car. So the damage done by a single 80,000 lb truck would be equivalent to the damage done by 2400 vehicles (9600/4) with an average vehicle weight of 6000 lbs.

    I don't know about where you live, but in my neck of the woods the ratio between semis to other vehicles is a LOT higher than 1 semi per 2400 vehicles (let alone 1 semi per 9600 vehicles). It's probably closer to 1 semi per 50 vehicles. So, even if the entire passenger car fleet was composed of 6000 lb vehicles, the vast share of the deterioration of the roads would still be due to SEMIS, and not cars/SUVs.

    BTW - semi owners DO pay a much higher vehicle registration fee; this is to help offset the greater damage they inflict to the roads.

    Remember, the gas taxes are not JUST for road maintenance. They were initially levied to fund NEW road construction. The need for new road construction is purely a function of the number of vehicle miles being generated in a location. Therefore, a tax BY THE MILE makes a lot more sense when funding road construction.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    With all this talk about "gas tax revenues falling" and how state governments are dealing with the supposed "shortfall" because of less gas tax revenue SUPPOSEDLY because of hybrids and small cars -

    from this post:

    The POOR Little Taxman !!!

    Riddle me THIS Taxman:

    1. If overall gasoline consumption is NOT DOWN in the USA (and it's not, according to every statistic I can locate) then WHERE is this MYSTERIOUS LOST TAX REVENUE coming from?

    It's not coming from less gas tax, if there is the SAME AMOUNT OF FUEL being sold and used and burned.

    How, praytell, are the hybrids and other high mileage cars having an impact of some BILLIONS of dollars if the amount of fuel used is not GOING DOWN?

    What am I missing here?
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I don't understand it either. Not only are we consuming more fuel but there are several states that have a percentage sales tax in addition to a per gallon tax. So these states should be doubly benefiting from the current high gas prices, CA for example. You can make the claim that high mpg vehicles aren't paying their fair share but there is no explanation for why there should be a revenue shortfall.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    Gas consumption is going up. Mileage is going up exponentially to the increase in gas usage. That means more road maintenance etc. Every one in a hybrid is going more miles so they have not solved any of the problems that they were supposed to solve. In So Ca they cannot build roads fast enough to keep up with the demand. More cars driving more miles. It has gotten markedly worse in the last 5 years. Kind of looks like the hybrids are at fault :)
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Mileage is going up exponentially to the increase in gas usage

    That is simply not true. If it was then the nation's fleet efficiency would be going up. It isn't. In fact it is slightly worse than it was 20 years ago. If you compare today's fleet to 20 years ago you will see for every hybrid driver paying less in fuel taxes there are now several truck and SUV drivers paying more. While a legitimate argument can be made that the driver of a high mpg vehicle isn't paying his share from the government's perspective their bottom line should not have suffered. Also I'm not sure construction costs are linear. Is a 4 lane highway really twice as expensive to build as a 2 line highway? I doubt it. If the government is blaming this revenue shortfall on hybrid drivers it is somewhat of a red herring.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Gary says, "Gas consumption is going up."

    Well, that would not be because of the hybrids. The effect is OPPOSITE. Someone who trades a 20 MPG SUV for a 40 MPG hybrid would have to drive MORE THAN TWICE AS MANY MILES per year to have a net effect of raising gas consumption. I don't see that scenario happening on a large enough scale to be making a difference.

    Gary says, "mileage is going up exponentially to the increase in gas usage."

    I don't see that either. I found a web page the other day that said the average US driver still drives about 12,000 miles a year, not a huge jump from recent years. So if people aren't SUBSTANTIALLY driving more miles, then the highways CANNOT BE SUBSTANTIALLY being negatively affected to the point of needed more maintenance than usual. In 1990, the average car on the road traveled about 11,107 miles a year. In 2005, each car traveled about 12,084 miles annually. So if it only jumped 9% in 15 years, how much could it have possibly jumped since 2005?

    Gary says, "in SoCal they cannot build roads fast enough."

    Gary, I spent two and a half years in SoCal in the early 1980's, and they had that same problem back then too. It has nothing to do with higher mileage cars.

    Gary says, "everyone in a hybrid is going more miles...looks like the hybrids are at fault."

    That is just a patently amazing statement to make. Any facts or studies or web sites to back that up, or is that just your "feeling?"

    Me personally, I've had two hybrids and I have driven fewer miles combined in the last three years than I did with my Avalanche the one year before I bought my HCH.

    So mark me off your imaginary list of "hybrid drivers who are driving more miles" because they own a hybrid.

    Bottom line is this: The high rate of oil usage in the U. S. is due in part to the fact that we’ve allowed too many low-mileage vehicles on the road - not too many HIGH MILEAGE vehicles on the road. Be sensible.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,863
    "What am I missing here?"

    Try imagining your dream scenario - everyone drives a Prius. How much will the Government then bring in from the fuel taxes (the money that is supposed to pay for road maintenance)? At the same time, the Prius (Priusii, Priusses? - that the heck is the plural anyway?) still use the roads.

    For the same mileage, an efficient hybrid will use less gas (and contribute less money to highway funds) than an equivalent gas guzzler.

    This is not to recommend people buy gas guzzlers, it is a comment upon reality. Eventually, they are going to have to find some other way to fund the highway costs, because I believe that higher MPG is in the cards for the future (in the form of hybrids, clean diesel, or other technologies).
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    You wrote a lot to say very little. My perspective is the higher percentage of hybrids bought in CA are driving higher mileage paying less into the highway fund. I am not the one that brought this to the forefront. I have posted all the proposed legislation and discussion on charging for gas tax by the mile. Oregon being at the leading edge already have cars equipped with GPS devices that charge for miles driven when you fill your tank. It is the inevitable next step to cover those driving hybrids, CNG & electric vehicles.

    Hybrid drivers are not Paying their fair share!
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Wait Gary - you meant to say:

    "TDI DRIVERS and Hybrid drivers and any drivers getting more than 40 MPG are not paying their share."

    Right?

    Who, by the way, sets the demarcation line?

    Who would it be that determines that cars over xx MPG are "not paying enough" and cars under xx MPG are "paying too much?"

    My perspective is that the only way high mileage vehicles could in ANY WAY be affecting road tax collections is if the number of miles driven was going UP but gasoline usage was going down. Because that's what a hybrid does - it allows you to drive more miles on less fuel.

    If the whole trend in the USA is "driving more miles but using less fuel" then you can fairly say that high mileage cars are having an impact.

    Problem is that is not happening.

    Miles driven are going up SLIGHTLY and consumption is going up SLIGHTLY.

    Blaming that on less than 3 percent of the drivers on the road is kindy silly............
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    "TDI DRIVERS and Hybrid drivers and any drivers getting more than 40 MPG are not paying their share."

    Right?


    Not really. Diesel cars are blocked from new sales in CA. In reality the EV-1 is the vehicle that started the dialog of taxing high mileage vehicles. If the mandate had held up and 10% of the vehicles were Electric, you can see the hit on highway taxes. Instead CARB opted for the dirtier hybrids and are losing tax dollars. I would imagine that hybrids currently outnumber diesel cars in CA by at least 100 to 1. That makes the hybrids the problem.

    You seem to think I am the one questioning the high mileage cars and gas tax. It is the state legislatures in several states. None of them listen to me. Nebraska has a hybrid tax. Oregon is testing a mileage tax, and CA never met a tax that it did not want in on.

    I would say your figure of 3% may be high across the nation. In CA there are a good number of hybrids and they are the ones putting on the miles and plugging up the HOV lanes. Something should be done and probably will in spite of your feelings toward the hybrids. When it happens I look for the high mileage diesel cars to be included. That would be fair.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    My comment to any state proposing a "mileage tax" would be this:

    Who sets the "mileage demarcation" cutoff point?

    Who would it be that determines that cars over xx MPG are "not paying enough" and cars under xx MPG are "paying too much?"

    My perspective is that the only way high mileage vehicles could in ANY WAY be affecting road tax collections is if the number of miles driven was going UP but gasoline usage was going down. Because that's what a hybrid does - it allows you to drive more miles on less fuel.

    If the whole trend in the USA is "driving more miles but using less fuel" then you can fairly say that high mileage cars are having an impact.

    Problem is that is not happening.

    Miles driven are going up SLIGHTLY and consumption is going up SLIGHTLY.

    If it was a fact (which it AIN'T) that hybrids and high mileage gassers and high mileage diesels are impacting the gas tax by BILLIONS of dollars as these idiots are estimating, then let me see the figures which show that consumption is going down while miles driven are going up.

    Where are the facts?

    All this talk about high-mileage cars all of a sudden bankrupting state coffers is just a "let's blame someone else - hey, how about just blame the new guy on the block?" knee-jerk reaction.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    Who sets the "mileage demarcation" cutoff point?

    That is not the way it is being looked at. You drive 30k miles per year you will be taxed 3 times more than the guy that drives 10k miles per year. I think Oregon is looking at 1.5 cents per mile. That would be about the same as the current tax on a vehicle getting 15 MPG. Seems the only fair way to tax driving. This is not my idea. It is a solution that Oregon came up with and many states are looking at. I just wish that the money from gas tax was spent to maintain our lousy roads in CA. You go to TX and you see a place that spends the money on roads. Not every other program under the sun.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Read this editorial for a better understanding of why the Oregon "mileage tax" is a total doofus of an idea:

    Bad Idea Hatching in the Great NorthWest

    When we consider these distortions, we see that the mileage tax is a poor substitute for the gas tax. It has all the negative features of the gas tax, such as decreasing the number of trips taken and increasing the marginal costs of products shipped via truck. It, however, does not have the positive impact of causing consumers to buy less polluting cars. Any proposal that has less benefits but just as many drawbacks as existing methods can hardly be seen as a positive change.

    Conclusion
    In the summary of the mileage tax, we saw that "if less gasoline is sold, the state will collect less tax revenue, all else being equal." However, this is absolutely no reason for "all else to be equal". If revenues are falling, why not simply raise the gas tax? The ability of consumers to buy gas from other jurisdictions, as well as the price elasticity of demand for gasoline will limit the amount the Oregon government can raise the tax, but it appears to be a far better option than this ill-advised scheme. Raising the rate of taxation in order to combat declining revenues is the obvious answer to Oregon's problem. Quite often the obvious answer is the correct one.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,173
    Do you think the editorial was written by a hybrid owner? I feel the GPS thing is way more than what is needed. Just have your mileage checked when you renew your plates. Charge for the miles you drove the year before. KISS is still my motto.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Why does everything have to be based on preconceived biases?

    Regardless of whether the editorial writer is a hybrid owner, his point stands alone without bias:

    Taxing that way is a disincentive for people to go start and keep buying high mileage cars.

    It still boils down to the fact that the small (tiny) percentage of high mileage cars on the road are ABSOLUTELY NOT killing the gas tax revenues. Not possible.

    Your idea about using the odometer to track miles is a good one, better than the cost and complexity of the GPS system.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,863
    "Taxing that way is a disincentive for people to go start and keep buying high mileage cars.

    It still boils down to the fact that the small (tiny) percentage of high mileage cars on the road are ABSOLUTELY NOT killing the gas tax revenues. Not possible."

    The point is not to encourage or discourage people from buying high MPG cars - the point is to maintain the highway funds. That is the purpose of the proposals.

    RE: Not impacting us. Well, possibly not yet (I don't have any data either way). But it is pure mathematics that eventually this will be a problem, and the US will have to come up with other funding ideas that don't involve taxes on the gas. I prefer a tax on the engine size, or perhaps gross weight, or just a flat per-mile tax when the license is renewed.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I think it is inevitable that states and the feds will eventually go to a per mile fee for funding highway projects. That doesn't mean the current gas tax will or should go away. It will just discontinue being a pay for use tax. It will now become a carbon tax that has nothing to do with highway funding. This is consistent with most of the taxes we pay that aren't earmarked for any particular purpose.
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