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Study: Owner-operators willing to pay truck-only tolls in Southern California

Research also finds drayage drivers wary of yet more added costs

Toll study finds owner-operators willing to pay for speed. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Truck-only toll lanes are not popular within the trucking industry as a way to pay for highway infrastructure. In fact, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) has made battling truck-only tolls a key priority on its 2021 political agenda.

But a recently released study by researchers at California State University Long Beach breaks new ground on the subject from the point of view of owner-operators. Its conclusion: Owner-operators who dray containers to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would be willing to use truck-only toll lanes — within limits — if doing so can increase safety and reduce transit times.

The study, headed by Joseph Kim and conducted for the Mineta Transportation Institute, found that owner-operator truck drivers prefer to take truck-only toll lanes 75.27% of the time, on average, when choosing among various route options, particularly along the heavily congested I-710 and I-405 freeways in southern California.

“When I met with them, they mentioned their concern that nobody tends to consider their opinions on these things,” Kim, a professor at the university’s Department of Civil Engineering, told FreightWaves. “They also mentioned that they already have to bear the burden of the cost of a lot of regulations [as owner-operators]. Many also had a negative perception about truck-only toll lanes. But my main point was to hear from truckers working at the piers, and to allow those voices to be heard by the government agencies to see where we go next.”

The analysis, released in October, revealed that owner-operators will take truck-only toll lanes when they take routes used in four out of six route comparisons, and according to the three measures: value of time (VOT), value of reliability (VOR) and safety.

The routes used in four comparisons include the routes from Port of Long Beach to Compton on I-710, Port of Long Beach to Van Nuys on I-405, Port of Long Beach to Van Nuys on I-405, and Port of Los Angeles to San Diego on Interstate 5.

Tolerated toll fees when value of time (VOT) is taken into account. Source: Mineta Transportation Institute

According to the study, the highest toll fee on any day that drivers are willing to pay when VOT is the main factor being compared is 32 cents per mile or $18.35 per hour. The highest toll fees associated with the safety and VOR factors are 22 cents per mile or $11.01 per hour, and 30 cents per mile or $8.94 per hour, respectively.

Participants in the study also deemed it unlikely that their clients would reimburse their toll fees. “Respondents alleged that most owner-operator truck drivers were already burdened with the increasing costs of regulations and cannot afford toll fees under the current pricing system,” the study noted.

From a policy perspective, owner-operators, like ATA, have resisted truck tolling to pay for infrastructure. In a letter to President-elect Joe Biden outlining the association’s policy positions for 2021, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) explained that it “consistently opposed” expanding tolling.

“Research has shown that tolling is an extremely wasteful method of funding our highways compared to fuel taxes,” OOIDA stated. “Additionally, toll roads consistently fail to meet revenue projections, creating unanticipated funding shortfalls, inevitable rate increases, and traffic diversion to non-tolled routes.”

But Kim believes his study will help produce a better understanding of the issue through the direct perspective of drivers in one of the most truck-congested areas of the country, and will help legislators and transportation agencies better understand the “utility and demand” for truck-only toll lanes.

“If we have more opportunity to study this area, I will propose contacting not only owner-operators but company drivers as well so we can have more ideas for making better-informed decisions.”

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  1. bruce

    What we should all have learned from the pandemic is too many people that are essential to the vitality of every city in America are not making enough money to support themselves. Things change and wages should do the same thing. Too many people do not understand that a working cell phone with wifi, cable television plus a car and insurance are now the BASIC staples of life regardless of where one lives. As company after company moved out of the city to the suburbs the needed for cheap unskilled (more or less) labor moved with it. Public transportation is too unreliable to get people to the locations of these companies and their employees have to drive to get to work. Trucking companies no longer advertise jobs in the Sunday papers, the do it online. How does one search for a job without access to the internet? Analog television is no longer available and cable news rules the airwaves. Newspapers have gone online and the price of a daily newspaper is two bucks in every city that still runs a daily edition hard copy. What I’ve learned from the pandemic is that regardless of what side of the aisle we vote they are all guilty for allowing this to continue.

  2. Dandy Drummer

    314-366 per day minimum…payable each 10th hour or portion there of…..any or all status lines….
    Hometime? Check box….[] []….to certify approval.
    Out > 12 Days min.

  3. Dandy

    Should be a uniform minimum Day rate for OTR.
    316-$366/Day, and payable each 10th of an hour or portion; regardless of duty status. Hometime is a checked box, in and out::34-48hr…..

  4. Scott

    Minimum wage for trucking sounds like a good idea but those rates are already too low to matter to anyone.. You’ll just raise the minimum expenses for customers and that will be passed on to their customers raising their prices. I use the 241 toll in Socal about 3 times per year as it is and that’s only if it will save me at least a half hour of time.. Although I know many guys will use a toll on the 710, it will unlikely be a major source of revenue for the state and where are you going to put it?

  5. Don Hansen

    Seems the tolls used to pay for added lanes should apply to both trucks and cars, since car drivers would benefit from the reduced congestion and separating trucks from cars.

    And if it saves an hour of drive time, and several gallons of diesel, and wear on the truck (stop-and-go vs cruising) then $20 is money well spent.

  6. Stephen Webster

    We need to have minimum wage rates for all essential workers including truck drivers. We need to have minimum freight rates of $1.84 or dry van loads of 40,000 lbs $1.95 per mile for reefer at $39,000 lbs including pallets plus 1 cent per mile for each additional 200 lbs or part of 200 lbs plus all tolls and border crossing. The same the taxis do in some parts of the world. All trucks needs to be paid after one hour at docks after expected time of delivery of they got there in time.

    1. Russell Schoonover

      You are way to low on rates it shouldn’t matter if it’s dry van , reefer , or flat bed rate should start at $2.25 per mile to the truck and company driver with more than 2 year on the road should start at 75 cent per mile with annual increase , max 1 hour at dock then $ 30.00 per hour to the driver , $200.00 for layover per 24 hrs and $25.00 per hour for any and all on duty time away from home.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.