You know them as that period in the northwest from November 1 to April 30, when the days are short, the air is cold, the misty precipitation often transforms into solids and then back again. As a result the riding days are few and far between.
Like many of you I recently needed to renew my driver’s license.
It’s a fairly benign task except now the rules have become a bit more restrictive and you have to provide proof of your legal presence, identity and date of birth. “Presence” means that you have to provide proof that you are a U.S. citizen, permanent legal resident, or otherwise legally present in the U.S.
I filled out the form, provided a passport as proof, passed the eye exam and hoped for a striking photo that I could be proud to show at the airport. I started to write out a check to the DMV for $40 and the clerk corrected me, stating it would be $68. Whoa?! Somewhat miffed about the extra fee just because a box is checked on the license… I ask what the extra $28 paid for and the clerk stumbled around a bit saying that I would need to talk to Salem DMV about the renewal money.
So, I did.
I went to the “Ask ODOT” button on the DMV site and sent them a note. The initial response I received was “Revenues DMV receives from fees related to vehicle title registration, driver licenses and endorsements are being used to recover costs and replenish the state’s Highway fund… please see the attached Key Facts booklet.”
This didn’t make sense, but I looked over the document, and found few references to motorcycle fees or how that money was spent so I sent a follow-up email and received another quick reply which was more helpful: “The $28 motorcycle endorsement fee goes into a motorcycle safety account which is dedicated to motorcycle training and public information and awareness. Please see the Motorcycle Safety program website.”
So, I surfed over there and downloaded the most recent data.
On page six of the Motorcycle Safety Databook – 2008, it provides details on various project funding, however, it was over 3 years old so I sent another email asking if there was data through 2011. I received another quick response which stated the web site needed to be updated with the newer information, and they attached a PDF file that included the 2011 data. After reviewing the document I had several additional questions and called Michele O’Leary, ODOT Transportation Safety Division.
What follows is some additional detail and learnings: The additional $28 that is collected for a motorcycle endorsement over the driver license fee goes toward what is known as the Motorcycle Safety Subaccount Fee. The $28 is collected each time a person renews their motorcycle endorsed license. As of 2010, each new endorsement holder pays an additional $10 (first time only) so they have $38 collected. The fee was established under ORS 807.370 (20).
OSU TEAM OREGON Program: Funds in 2011 were $866K (in 2007 it was $803K); this funds the daily operation of statewide motorcycle safety project which includes: Mobile Program courses, instructor training, instructor update workshops, instructor and training location monitoring, public information and education activities by staff and instructors. Items such as fairs, sober graduation presentations, motorcycle events, insurance, printing and materials.
Motorcycle Statewide Services: Funds in 2011 were $96K (in 2007 it was $106.8K); this funds travel expenses for members of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety. It also includes printing, mailing, and distribution costs along with equipment and travel expenses for TEAM OREGON Motorcycle Safety Program.
There are also some Federal funds which help augment the state expenses. They are:
Motorcycle Safety Program Enhancement Project: Funds in 2011 were $127.7K (in 2007 it was $53K); this funds the enhancement of the state motorcycle safety training program through the purchase of training motorcycles, improvements to the mobile training program, curriculum improvements and range site lease.
Motorcycle Safety Public Information and Education: Funds in 2011 were $30K (in 2007 it was $40K); this funds public information and education contract and campaign materials for motorist awareness.
Interesting to note is that the Federal motorcycle dollars have been capped at $100K each year. The Motorcycle Safety Program office had some unspent funds one year and rolled them into 2011 to be able to spend them. However, the Federal allocation will be reduced to less than $50K each year starting in 2014 and into the foreseeable future.
In terms of revenue collected to run the various programs, the state of Oregon issues approximately 12,000 new motorcycle endorsements each year at DMV. This equates to: 12K x $38 = $456,000 (approximately). The remainder of the state funds comes from renewals, which are a “rolling” target as each person renews at a different time. There are also registration funds from the state motorcycle safety training program which are collected that help pay for the cost of operating the training.
While the program is largely self-sufficient, the downside is that there are no extra monies to take on larger initiatives and make a larger impact on motorcycle safety. Only a large increase of people applying for motorcycle endorsements or shadowing the legislature to request additional funds will put extra money into the sub-account.
I think it’s also most important that the motorcycle community understand that the use of the endorsement fee is legislated in ORS 802.340 (2):
802.340 Transportation Safety Account; uses; Motorcycle Safety Subaccount. (1) The Transportation Safety Account is established in the General Fund of the State Treasury. Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, all money credited to the account established under this section is appropriated continuously for and shall be used by the Department of Transportation to carry out the following purposes:
(a) Payment of the per diem, travel and other expenses of the Transportation Safety Committee.
(b) Payment of the expenses of the department in performance of its duties related to transportation safety.
(c) Functions or programs established under ORS 802.315.
(2) There is established in the account created under subsection (1) of this section a subaccount to be known as the Motorcycle Safety Subaccount. The subaccount shall consist of moneys credited to the subaccount under ORS 807.370 and as otherwise provided by law. The subaccount shall be accounted for separately. Moneys in the subaccount are continuously appropriated to the department for and shall be used to carry out the purposes provided under ORS 802.320.
The statute ensures that legislators can’t take the motorcycle endorsement fees and put them into the general fund to use on whatever pet project they have this month.
Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about motorcycle endorsement fees.
Photo courtesy of Oregon DMV. Shout-out to Michele O’Leary, ODOT Transportation Safety Division for taking the time to answer questions and respond to email/phone calls.