The proliferation of supersized vehicles has caused or exacerbated a number of problems—not only do large pickups and SUVs spew more air pollution than smaller vehicles, but they are more likely to kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists, and they increase road wear.
Several European jurisdictions have enacted measures to address “truck bloat.” In France, new non-electric cars are taxed an extra €10 for each kilogram over 1,800 kilograms. The mayor of Tübingen, Germany has proposed that SUVs pay substantially higher parking fees.
Here in the Land of Big, the District of Columbia has proposed what appears to be the first government measure aimed at oversize vehicles. The city has proposed an annual $500 vehicle registration fee on vehicles weighing over 6,000 pounds—almost seven times the cost to register a modest sedan.
“The size and weight of these vehicles has become ginormous,” says Mary Cheh, a DC council member who developed the new fee structure. “When cars and pedestrians or cyclists come into contact, we know that the heavier the car, the worse the accident will be. You can’t ban sales of these things, but you can make them pay their own way.”
State registration fees tend to be modest. Some US states charge a flat yearly fee, and others adjust theirs based on the age of the car. A few already base registration costs on vehicle weight, including Florida, which charges $22.50 per year, plus $10 extra for cars over 3,500 pounds.
Washington DC has historically imposed some of the highest fees in the US. Currently the annual fee is $72 for a vehicle under 3,500 pounds, $115 for one under 5,000 pounds, and $155 for an over-5,000 behemoth.
Under the proposed new rules, machines between 3,500 and 5,000 pounds would see their annual fee rise to $175, those between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds would pay $250, and SUVs and trucks weighing over 6,000 pounds would hand over a hefty $500.
DC’s budget analysts forecast that the new rules would generate an additional $40 million in revenue over the next five years. Cheh would like to see those funds allocated to improving street safety.
If the proposal is approved, some EV owners would see their registration fees rise—EVs are generally heavier than legacy vehicles because of the batteries. The GMC Hummer EV tips the scales at 9,000 pounds. Cheh has proposed that EV owners receive a 1,000-pound credit, in order not to discourage electrification.
A Nissan LEAF weighs just under 4,000 pounds, so with the 1,000-pound credit, it would still qualify for the lowest annual fee. The heaviest Tesla Model S weighs just under 5,000 pounds, so an owner would fall into the second-lowest fee tier.
The proposal has already received unanimous approval from the DC city council, and is awaiting Mayor Muriel Bowser’s signature to become law.