Road tax should be based on vehicle weight

roadtaxBy YS Chan

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai says the government is studying options of allowing flexible road tax payment for motorists.

With the advancement of technology, vehicles’ movements can be tracked, so the lower the mileage, the lower the road tax.

He added that such a system could be studied by the transport ministry and implemented in future.

Meanwhile, I propose that current road tax rates, that are based on engine capacity, be based on vehicle weight instead.

Around 1970, rotary engine cars were on Malaysian roads when Asia Motors was selling Mazdas, and road tax was lower because of their smaller capacity but powerful engines.

At the race track, these 1.2 litre rotary engines were classified with 2.0 litre piston engines, much the same way as super or turbo-charged engines compete with naturally aspirated engines.

Today, many cars on the road are fitted with super or turbochargers that generate more than adequate horsepower from relatively small engines.

A large battery can also be fitted to complement the internal combustion engine to propel the car. These hybrid models are even cheaper than normal cars because of tax incentives.

It will not be long before more fully electric cars are on our roads, and their performance can be truly electrifying, as their acceleration puts many internal combustion engine cars to shame.

As it is not practical to charge road tax based on the engine’s cubic capacity (none for electric vehicles), it would also be unfair to base it on horsepower, which only indicates its full potential, not utilisation.

As such, road tax should be based on vehicle weight, and those who drive around in bulky SUVs, MPVs, pickups and vans should pay more than those in cars.

As for buses, it should be based on their weight without passengers, and maximum permissible weight for goods-carrying vehicles. Those caught overloading should be fined 10 times more than the road tax for each time they are caught.

Such a road tax system is better than changing to one based solely on mileage, which is akin to paying toll every time the car is used on the road.

And if there is technology to track the movement of vehicles on the road, there will be people smart enough to produce anti-detection kits and make a killing in the market.

YS Chan is an FMT reader.

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