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How to ensure success when launching mileage-based user fee programs

5 min read


Pixabay / Jonbonsilver

This piece is sponsored by Emovis

Mileage-based user fees are gaining interest and testing grounds, as states grapple with declining fuel tax revenues. Virginia is the latest state to initiate a user fee program with Emovis, an  Abertis Mobility Services company. As one of the world’s leading providers of toll-based mobility solutions, Emovis is already running revenue-generating programs in Utah and Oregon, as well as a pilot in Washington state. 

SmartBrief asked Emovis Product Manager Scott Jacobs what he foresees for this market and some of the key takeaways from these seminal pilots. 

Should we expect to see many more states test the mileage-based user fee concept with pilots such as the ones Emovis runs?

Yes. At least 30 states have a program or are researching or planning for one. Most recently, the Eastern Transportation Coalition completed a cross-state pilot, while California’s Road Charge Pilot Program has been around since 2015. 

What goals should transportation agencies have for their pilots?

The pilot should allow a way to solicit feedback and ideas from users. It also should be able to test various mileage reporting options, and provide useful data to help establish future rate settings for a permanent program. Ensuring that data is kept private is equally important, so consider data processing procedures and software that increase security. 

Scott Jacobs

Once a pilot is in place, ask if the foreseen program:

  • Is equitable for both rural and urban users, as well as for both personal and commercial users  
  • Ensures the accurate collection and reconciliation of expected road usage fee revenue
  • Is cost-effective 
  • Is enforceable

How does a pilot work?

Typically, they are voluntary. The road fees collected are either applied to existing highway usage fees or a fuel tax credit, thus the customer pays no more than they currently pay. 

Users open a road user charge account and choose a mileage reporting option. Emovis charges the pre-paid customer account for mileage driven, and replenishes the balance using the payment method on file as needed. Users can view account information online or via a mobile app. Emovis provides the transportation agency with a customer support center and financial reports.

The Eastern Transportation Coalition predicts that stakeholder buy-in will be vital to the successful launch of any mileage-based user fee program. Do you agree and, if so, how can this be achieved?

We agree. Among the stakeholders we want as advocates are pilot members, political leaders, transportation department staff, business groups and the media. If you want a user-fee program to work, consider reaching out to business interests, tourism interests and newspapers and ask them to do the same. For example, automakers can educate auto enthusiasts and car dealers. In targeting stakeholders and specific groups who are active with constituents and political leaders, there is an indirect impact on decision makers. 

Based on your experience with Emovis pilots, what tools are most important to ensure a successful pilot and, eventually, program launch? 

There are 15 points to consider: 

  • Customer communications: Ensure the customers understand the benefits and equity of the program (particularly financial and pay-for-use).
  • User Eligibility: Ensure that your AMS has a bilateral link with the agency to determine eligibility for program enrollment and continued program status including termination.
  • Enforcement: Ensure that enforcement tools are effective, and leakage is minimal to non-existent. 
  • Technology: Ensure multiple technology options are available that present different levels of ease of user setup, client cost and user privacy.
  • Accuracy and Quality: Ensure the program accurately captures the mileage and assesses the correct charges to the users.
  • Key Performance Indicators: Ensure all KPIs are met and any deficiencies are proactively identified and corrected expeditiously 
  • Privacy and Security: Ensure all applicable guidelines are followed and no data breaches occur, all financial data is secure, and no PII/location information is shared.  Social security numbers are never collected, credit card numbers are tokenized, and trip data is aggregated and anonymized. 
  • Equity: Ensure options are available to set equity-based rates (vehicle type or size, user location and financial class).
  • Cost: Ensure no unexpected costs are added to the program and the cost to collect is in line with the products and services provided.
  • Financial Reconciliation: Ensure all financials are reconciled and expected revenues are collected.
  • User Issue Resolution: Ensure all issues are handled on a timely basis and proactive measures are implemented to avoid recurrence. 
  • Feedback: Provide continual feedback on what is working and what isn’t. Provide suggestions for continual improvement and provide user feedback.
  • Audit: Ensure the system can easily be audited and is PCI-compliant.
  • Success Criteria and Metrics: Identify the criteria and metrics needed to demonstrate a successful pilot based on the agreed-upon goals, with agreed-upon evaluation method(s).
  • Identify/Address Full Program Launch Challenges: Present cost-effective solutions to any full program launch issues ready for client review after the pilot is complete.

Scott Jacobs, RUC Product Manager, Emovis

Scott Jacobs brings 11 years of management level experience in project management and the operations and maintenance of toll systems, specializing in project management, quality assurance, development of requirements, auditing, testing and implementation.