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Jacobs Plays Key Role in First Multi-state Truck Pilot Exploring Mileage-based User Fees in US

The results may change road ahead for future implementation for cars and trucks.

Jacobs served as the prime consultant on the first multi-state truck pilot exploring mileage-based user fees (MBUF) in the U.S. The study, conducted by the Eastern Transportation Coalition (the Coalition), examined the effects of MBUF on the trucking industry and demonstrated the need for a nuanced approach to highway funding models.

“This pilot produced important findings about the implementation of mileage-based user fees in the United States, particularly as they relate to commercial vehicles,” explains Louis Neudorff, who served as the Jacobs project manager on the effort. “It may very well be that any future implementation of MBUF could require different paths and approaches for cars and trucks. ”

Louis also notes that earlier MBUF studies focused on passenger vehicles and smaller geographic areas. “By expanding the vision to include the trucking industry and multi-state travel, we found that rate setting can have profound implications on equity and, if not done properly, can actually penalize fuel-efficient trucks.”

The Coalition pilot took place from October 2018 to March 2019 and drew data from more than 50 tractor-trailers traveling across 27 states in and around the Eastern Seaboard.

The pilot results come as states investigate alternatives to state and federal fuel taxes, which help fund the maintenance and operation of the national highway system. Fuel tax revenue has declined in recent years, due in part to inflation and the prevalence of newer, energy-efficient vehicles that generate less fuel tax revenue than their older counterparts. Because an MBUF structure charges drivers based on road usage rather than fuel purchased, many states are exploring whether these fees can effectively address revenue declines.

“Jacobs’ insight and technical expertise were key to the success of this study,” says Patricia Hendren, executive director of the Coalition. “The rate setting and data analysis provided by Jacobs helped us arrive to the conclusion that a one-size-fits-all approach to MBUF doesn’t work; this is a significant contribution to the ongoing national conversation around MBUF.”

Jacobs played a lead role in setting, analyzing and adjusting MBUF rates throughout the Coalition truck pilot. With our efforts, the Coalition concluded that a flat MBUF rate unfairly impacts trucks, and fuel-efficient trucks in particular. The study concluded that rate setting for trucks will be much more complicated than for passenger vehicles due to vast differences in vehicle operations, types, ages, performance and mileage traveled.

During the pilot, Jacobs also assumed a lead role in interpreting pilot data, analyzing interviews with participating motor carriers, and preparing the final report on study findings. In addition, we assisted the Coalition with incorporating feedback from the Motor Carrier Working Group, which included representatives from the trucking industry and provided observations to help researchers improve rate setting and data extraction.

Jacobs’ contributions come as part of its multi-year role as prime consultant for the Coalition’s Surface Transportations Systems Funding Alternatives grant work examining how MBUF might be applied along the Eastern Seaboard. Jacobs will continue to play a lead role as the Coalition conducts a more expansive truck pilot beginning this fall.

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