What you need to know about cashless tolling

4 minute read

In the past few years, there has been a push to start up cashless tolling in full effect; especially after other states like Massachusetts have become completely toll-booth free. New York is following suit with the NY Thruway Authority announcing that it will be switching to cashless tolling by the end of 2020.

cashless_transponderAccording to the New York State Thruway Authority, “transportation authorities are turning to cashless tolling to reduce congestion, improve safety, and reduce air pollution. More than 35 bridges, tunnels, and toll roads across the nation use cashless tolling, including all MTA tunnels and bridges.”

Cashless tolling is becoming commonplace and there is no way to avoid it. Although this may seem like an unnecessary burden, there are several benefits that come along with this movement away from stop-and-go toll booths.

How it Works

Cashless tolling will appear as structures over the highway, called gantries, where toll booths would have normally been placed. However, instead of stopping to pay a toll or slowing down to 5mph, cameras snap a photo of the vehicle's license plate and reads the toll transponder ID as you maintain highway speed.

This is all completed in a couple steps:

  • Drive on any toll roads at normal highway speed
  • License plate numbers are automatically processed
  • Toll is sent out to the owner of the vehicle

CashlessTolling_Highway_Toll_Ezpass_original

Benefits

Cheaper

    • EZ-Pass offers a standard 5% discount over the cash toll rates
    • Pay-by-plate vehicles without a toll transponder pay more
    • More efficient method for collecting tolls reduces transportation overhead

Faster

    • Drivers saved 3.4M hours of travel time (Metro News Study)
    • No longer need to slow down and stop at a toll booth
    • Reduces accidents related to merging at toll plazas

Greener

    • Fuel consumption was reduced by 1.5B gallons (Metro News Study)
    • No idling in line at a toll plaza means fewer emissions
    • Saves time and fuel by eliminated speed changes at toll plazas

Not to mention beyond these three main benefits, drivers in the United States saved nearly $3.9 million over the time of just one year. These reasons happen to be benefits, but either way, this mandate is happening, and it deems to be occurring faster than we may think.

One other benefit is the enhanced reporting that comes with each EZ-Pass statement, meaning less paperwork to calculate how much tolls are really costing you.

Challenges

Increased complication

Fleets that currently use cash to pay for tolls will need to get a toll transponder which means signing up for a new account with EZ-Pass in the Northeast and Midwest. If your trucks travel beyond this region, they may need to sign up for different toll transponders depending on the region like FastTrak in California.

E-ZPass_states

  EZ-PASS COMPATIBILITY
      Yes
      Partial
      No
      Cash only tolling
      No toll roads

These problems can be mitigated by using a third-party tolling partner like Bestpass, who use a transponder that works in multiple states. Services like this also provide one invoice for all tolls versus individual invoices per tolling authority. In addition, they use their large user base to negotiate deeper discounts with tolling authorities for trucks using their system.

Tractor and trailer mis-match

Relatively often, trucks pass under cashless tolling gantries, and the camera reads the license plate at the rear of the vehicle, due to the fact that some states do not require the use of a front license plate. Which is find for normal cars, but for trucks, it will read the trailer plate number. And if the trailer isn't owned by the carrier hauling it, the owner of the trailer (or leasing company) will incur the toll. Trying to track down the original tractor can prove to be difficult.

Again, this can be solved by using a toll transponder in the tractor, however if there is a mis-read, the system will default to the photo captured by the camera on the gantry.

Toll pre-pay

Unlike paying cash, EZ-Pass requires account holders to post a minimum deposit for each toll transponder in your fleet, typically around $20 but it can vary. This can be very frustrating especially for vehicles that don't use a lot of toll roads but occasionally need 

Final thoughts

Since there is no other way around going cashless, unless drivers stop using tolled roads, it's something that fleet owners are going to have to embrace. By planning on upgrading your fleet with toll transponders, you can stay one step ahead and save some money each time your truck passes under a toll gantry at the same time.