U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore, introduced H.R. 3311 to Congress in July. The bill calls for the funding of a $150 million-plus study of a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee, to ultimately replace the current consumption-based gas tax. The VMT system would require the installation of a GPS transponder in all vehicles. Under the program, when a motorist pulls up to the gas pump, information about when and where the vehicle traveled would be downloaded to the pump. The mileage tax would then be computed and added to the per gallon cost of the gas. In theory, the tax could be increased for travel during peak periods or in areas of higher traffic congestion. Traffic management by Big Brother.
We already have had a glimpse of what other applications can be created for a GPS-based system. Some rental car agencies track the use of their vehicles, and administer extra charges if, for instance, the vehicle crossed state lines. One auto insurance company allows its customers to opt in to a program where vehicle operating data, such as how often and how hard a driver brakes, are downloaded wirelessly. Insurance premiums can be adjusted accordingly.
Other applications are only limited by the imagination of government officials and GPS technology. In this era of cap-and-trade discussions, what about, Henry Lamb asks in WorldNetDaily, “shutting down the vehicle when its allotted emissions cap has been reached?”
Blumenauer’s home state of Oregon ran a VMT tax pilot program in Portland one-and-a-half years ago, when 260 vehicles were equipped with the GPS units and data downloading was done at specially-equipped gas pumps. Oregon estimates full implementation could cost $33 million for the state. Not surprisingly, it has already been suggested that this cost could be offset somewhat by charging vehicle owners for the GPS transponders.
H.R. 3311 has been assigned to the House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Although the timeline for the proposed study of a VMT fee is five to ten years, the time is now to let your Congressional representatives know what you think of intrusive devices that monitor you and your vehicle’s every move.
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