IRF: What in your view are some of the driving forces shaping the future of road user charging?
NE: Globally, the main source for transportation funding is still the fuel tax. When the fuel tax was introduced, in a time when all vehicles roughly used the same amount of fuel, it was a fair tax system. It reflected the variability of actual usage of roads – the more someone benefited, the more that person paid.
Today it’s a different story; vehicles are using less fuel and the fleet is fundamentally changing. A growing number of vehicles are not using fuel at all. This raises equity concerns: A household reliant on a low efficiency vehicle pays more per mile than a household with a high efficiency vehicle (in NZ between 115-135%).
Additionally, it means that the number of miles travelled grows but the fuel tax revenue declines. Other revenue sources that governments rely on for transportation funding like driver licenses and parking fees are also in question due to the imminent introduction of automated vehicles.
This creates a relative immediate funding problem that cannot be overlooked by policy makers. Road user charges offer an alternative to fuel taxes, and this is something more and more governments are coming to recognize.
The positive driver is that road user charges can be a lot fairer than fuel taxes, fixed charges on registration, or sales and luxury taxes. This is because they can reflect the real cost driver in land transport - actual consumption of road assets by vehicle types, loads, and distances traveled - and charge people accordingly. By explicitly revealing full costs, they also prepare the scene should a government wish to price other factors, like congestion or emissions.
IRF: How are you working to address these changes?
NE: By offering a practical alternative.
EROAD modernized New Zealand's road user charging regime, by introducing the world’s first network-wide GPS based road user charging system in 2009. Over the last ten years, we have demonstrated the workability of a GNSS-based approach at a national scale, as well as the significant cost savings that result for government and road users. We have exported our services to Australia and the United States and have revealed the versatility of the underlying technology and GNSS-linked data gathering, developing a range of value-added services delivered on the same platform.
EROAD’s world-leading suite of services have significantly improved regulatory compliance and the attainment of socially beneficial outcomes across the connected vehicle fleet - reduced speeding and fuel use being two examples.
Our mission is to solve complex transportation problems across the global landscape, by delivering intuitive solutions to serve our communities and help our customers, government agencies and stakeholders succeed. We continually monitor world regulatory environments and partner with government agencies and stakeholders to provide expertise and innovative approaches to help solve complex problems.
IRF: What do you perceive as the main value of a global conference focused on innovation in the road sector?
While every country is different, there are common issues. Connecting stakeholders and learning from each other is immensely important and valuable - a true advantage of our connected world.
These events represent a great opportunity to share observations and insights, to recognize aspects that others might have missed.
An event like the Global IRF conference will let new insights build on the old, allowing the emphasis to shift from one focus to another, ensuring all the important factors get their necessary share of attention.
I’m looking forward to some interesting conversations.