A national driving tax to charge motorists and truckers by the mile driven instead of per gallon of gasoline and fuel purchased has gone through first phase of analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

The reality is that the money to repair and build the necessary road infrastructure is decreasing as fuel economy goes up for new vehicles and as Americans are not driving as far because of high gasoline and diesel fuel prices. The current federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, and the driving tax could either replace this money or add to it.

To maintain the current collection level of about $35 billion a year, the tax would be just under a penny a mile for an average passenger car, according to most estimates. CNN Money news service, which recently provided an extensive look at the driving tax, noted the average driver of a Toyota Camry that gets about 380 miles per tank of gas would be paying $3.40 per fill up—roughly the same as the current gas tax.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) asked the Congressional Budget Office to study the driving tax idea. The CBO issued a report that said such a tax was feasible and had advantages over a gas tax.

Politically it wouldn’t seem that such a tax would be an easy sell to the public, but the state of Oregon is currently conducting a pilot program to evaluate the idea, according to CNN Money.

Installing a driving tax would seem to break any member of Congress’ pledge to not raise taxes on the poor and middle income, but Congress might be able to disguise the driving tax.

In general, highway replacement and repair is related to the volume of traffic and the weight rolling over a highway. The public is quick to blame trucks for destroying highways. A driving tax could be initiated as a way to increase income from truckers and trucking companies through a higher user fee. A triple-axle truck weighing the same as a double-axle truck supposedly causes less road damage, and the driving tax could be adjusted accordingly.  

Especially with private vehicles, another big complaint, without doubt, would be how to verify miles driven. The most likely way to read vehicle’s odometers would be via on-board GPS technology.

The general public could possibly accept commercial vehicles being GPS equipped to track miles and assure drivers meeting hours of service regulations.

It would seem that mail collection of the tax based on GPS readouts would establish another government bureaucracy. A mileage tax could also have a high impact on people in rural areas. Rural residents tend to drive larger cars and have longer commutes. An aspect that rural residents might like about GPS tracking is a possible lower driving tax for vehicles on less traveled roads or in non-rush times. Those people jamming roads commuting to work could be charged a higher tax.   

Across the board introduction of a driving tax for all vehicles on the road in the U.S. isn’t likely to be passed from the comments being heard, or silence, around Washington, D.C. It is a concept that earned tax dollars to investigate today for potentially initiating many years in the future. Truckers might be the exception to have such a tax applied to them earlier than the public.