A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

My OReGO experience: The latest

Written August 19th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
My truck, a proving ground for Oregon's idea of a mileage tax.

My truck, a proving ground for Oregon’s idea of a mileage tax.

My experiment with OReGO, Oregon’s mileage tax program, is proving more interesting than expected. And I can see where, before this approach to road taxation can ever become widespread, let alone mandatory, adjustments will have to be made.

One problem is the tax rate per mile, now 1.5 cents. At that rate, the state gets less road money than now from owners of vehicles that average roughly 20 miles per gallon or less. The way it works for me, every time I drive my truck, the state owes me a fraction of a cent because of the 30-cent-per-gallon fuel tax that I’ve already paid.

Oregon needs more money for roads, not less, so the 1.5-cent rate is too low. The alternative is for the legislature to force all vehicles to pay the mileage tax, even those that yield little or no gas tax revenue now. Imagine the howls of protest when all owners of hybrids and all-electric vehicles are faced with having to pay a higher road tax.

I’ve learned a couple of things since signing up for the voluntary OReGO program. One is that the staff at Sanef, the maker of my mileage recording device or MRD, is extraordinarily helpful in tracking down problems. When the device missed a big chunk of the distance driven on a recent trip, they went on the hunt for the cause and found it.

From the report sent by my OReGO account guy: “The user’s MRD was momentarily reset at (about) 1:30 PM on 8/01/2015, shortly after the end of a trip outside of Philomath, Oregon.” (That would have been when I set the foot-operated parking brake and stomped on the MRD gizmo instead.) “During the reset, the MRD lost power and needed to reset the internal clock using the GSM (wireless) network. The (2G T-Mobile) coverage in the area was fairly poor and the MRD was unable to properly calibrate the internal clock, resulting in a missed reading of about 60 miles between Philomath and Yachats. … Unfortunately, the interim mileage data was not recorded.”

Some people might be creeped out by the fact that this vendor, from its base in New York state, even without GPS, was able to determine just where I was at 1:30 on Aug. 1. But I guess any determined surveillance operation — the NSA perhaps — could have figured this out from cell phone records alone. The take-away here is that without better cell phone coverage the mileage tax would not work.

Just now, unfortunately, the OReGO vendor sent me an email explaining that it had made an adjustment in my daily mileage totals because the MRD had “incorrectly determined the day’s end.” My online account showed this adjustment amounted to 25 miles that the device had underreported in the period up to Aug. 11.

In my case this added a penny or so to the amount the state owes me, now a whopping total of $2.46. But if people were ever forced to pay a mileage tax, upward adjustments based on hard-to-understand technical details with the recording device likely would not go over well. (hh)

6 responses to “My OReGO experience: The latest”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    Thanks, Hasso. New tech growing pains are inevitable.

    Something has to be done about funding the costs of maintaining and expanding roads. The gas tax hasn’t cut it for a while now, especially with the high MPG and electric vehicles.

    On the other hand, sales of SUV’s and other bigger vehicles appear to have been increasing as the price of gas has dropped.

    • James Carrick says:

      Bob, On the surface your comments make sense. However your statements, though true, bear some scrutiny.

      “Something has to be done about funding the costs of maintaining and expanding roads.” I agree, and let’s not forget our failing bridges.

      “The gas tax hasn’t cut it for a while now, especially with the high MPG and electric vehicles.” Again, true. However, these are invariably very light vehicles and don’t cause the bulk of the wear and tear to our highways unless they are shod with studded tires. More on that in a moment. Hybrids and electric vehicles MUST be taxed on an equitable per mile basis. because they contribute their fair share of increased traffic levels that drive our need for expanded highway capacity.

      “On the other hand, sales of SUV’s and other bigger vehicles appear to have been increasing as the price of gas has dropped.” Again true…but with that goes a corresponding increase in gallons of gasoline and diesel consumed, WITH the increased fuel tax revenues that result. It seems this HELPS the situation instead of making it worse. But perhaps that’s what you meant by saying “On the other hand.” Your point was not clear.

      Is the answer for most of us an increase in fuel taxes, dedicated specifically to highway funding and a mileage tax for the hybrids and electrics? Increased registration fees? There are no easy answers here. That’s for sure.

      There is ONE thing that would dramatically decrease our highway maintenance costs…..OUTLAW studded tire usage in the winter. They add little or no added traction in 98% of the winter road conditions we face in all regions of Oregon…and the damage they cause by themselves is likely equal to that caused by heavy semi-trucks and their heavy loads.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        I totally agree about the studded tires. They are an abomination as far as I am concerned!

      • Bob Woods says:

        I agree on studded tires too. they’re just not needed. When conditions are really bad, put the chain on.

        So what is it, exactly, that you disagree with?

        Nothing that I can see.

  2. Richard Vannice says:

    The state of Minnesota allows studded tires only under some strict guidelines. Google Are studded tires permitted in Minnesota and it will refer you to all the states regulations.

    If Minnesota can get by without studded tires during the winter, which are MUCH worse than ours, then Oregon sure as heck should outlaw them too.


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