Zipping through the Tolls

Motorists on long drives suffer from one nightmare for sure: long queues at clogged highway toll plazas! With traffic increasing on Indian highways, the time taken to pass through a toll plaza is often abnormally high. Here is a lowdown on bypassing this frustrating menace. In 2016, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) rolled out a system for electronic toll collection on toll plazas on National Highways. The technology, known as ‘FASTag’, allows a car owner to avail of pre-paid toll passage and zip through toll plazas without stopping for actual cash payments. Under the system, a small tag or sticker is stuck on a vehicle’s windscreen which is read by the tag-readers at toll plazas and the exact toll amount gets automatically deducted. With dedicated lanes for FASTag users at toll plazas, it becomes convenient and hassle-free for motorists to subscribe to the system and bypass the congestion through the dedicated lanes demarcated for FASTag vehicles. Technology FASTag is a system that operates on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly from linked prepaid accounts of motorists, and enables driving through toll plazas without stopping for cash transactions. A FASTag sticker or tag has an embedded chip in it. It is stuck in the middle of a windscreen behind the rear view mirror, from inside a vehicle. It has a gum base at the rear side of the tag making it similar to a paper sticker. When a FASTag vehicle approaches a toll plaza, the RFID tag gets activated with the RFID sensors fitted inside the channels. The RFID system automatically deducts the toll tax amount to enable the car to pass through the channel. Implementing Authorities The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) rolled out the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system at toll plazas on National Highways aiming for faster traffic movement and safer cash transfers. This is called the FASTag programme in India. Under the Electronic Toll Collection system, NHAI has made it mandatory to implement the FASTag process at all toll plazas across the nation. The FASTag system is presently operational at almost all the 471 toll plazas across the National Highways in the country. Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL) – a company incorporated by NHAI and National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) – are the implementing authorities of this programme with help from Toll Plaza Concessionaires, FASTag Issuer Agencies and Toll Transaction Acquirer (select banks). How to Subscribe A private car owner has to buy a subscription of FASTag against a one-time affiliation fee of Rs 100 only. Thereafter, the tag has to be linked to a bank account of the car owner. The FASTag account has to be recharged with adequate funds to facilitate the payment of toll taxes. The minimum amount for a recharge is Rs 200 and may go up to Rs 100,000. The recharging of the FASTag account has no additional transaction charge. Point of Sale FASTags are available both online and offline. ONLINE: To purchase FASTag, download the sukhadyatra mobile app on a cellphone to avail the facility and to recharge too. With an online purchase, the physical tag gets delivered by courier to a car owner’s mailing address as filled in on the application form. For recharging the same online, credit card, debit card, NEFT, RTGS or net banking facilities are available. Periodic statements of account may also be obtained from the website of the issuing agency. OFFLINE: For buying a FASTag offline, a car-owner may visit any of the Point of Sale (POS) locations of an Issuer Agency (Bank) or a toll plaza. There are dedicated executives at most of the toll plazas these days, where FASTag may be purchased after filling up an application form, paying cash and getting a FASTag account created. In such circumstances, the executive will also stick the FASTag at the specified position on the car to get the vehicle moving instantly. A prospective customer may also call on the customer care number of the Issuer Agency (see list) to avail a FASTag. New cars in India are being delivered by manufacturers in recent times with FASTags on them. To activate a FASTag which comes fitted in a new car, one has to contact a Point of Sale (PoS) of the respective Issuer Agency (Bank). To recharge a FASTag account, one may make payment of any amount between Rs 200 and Rs 100,000 online by credit card/ debit card/ NEFT/ RTGS or net banking. Documents Required for Creating a FASTag Account 1) Registration Certificate (RC) of the vehicle 2) Passport size photograph of the vehicle owner 3) KYC documents as per the category of the vehicle owner (viz., individual / corporate): For individuals: (i) ID proof (ii) Address proof (Driving License / PAN Card / Passport / Voter ID Card / Aadhar Card) and one passport size photograph. Issue of FASTag is subject to verification of the original documents mentioned above by the issuing agency. Car owners are thus advised to bring the originals of the above documents while visiting PoS for purchase of FASTag. Cash-back Facility To encourage motorists to subscribe to FASTag, a cash-back facility has been introduced. With every FASTag payment at a toll tax plaza, there is a cash-back which acts as a discount on the toll taxes. In 2017-18 the cash-back amount was 7%, in 2018-19 it is 5% and in 2019-20 it will be 2.5%. The cash-back facility is uniformly implemented by the affiliated banks under the system. The cash-back amounts of a particular month get credited back to the FASTag-linked bank account of a car owner within a week of the subsequent month of toll tax payment. Tolling Process 1) At a toll plaza, approach the FASTag demarcated lanes for fastest passage. 2) Pass through the toll plaza non-stop without making any cash payment. The required toll tax will get deducted automatically from the pre-paid account linked to FASTag. A customer, however, needs to have an adequate balance in the linked account. 3) The customer will receive an SMS with requisite details on his registered mobile and email id as soon as the toll transaction takes place. The amount deducted may be crosschecked with the toll fee displayed at a toll plaza. 4) Recently, since all toll lanes have been made hybrid to accept not only cash but FASTags too, a car with a FASTag may enter any lane to pass through. 5) A FASTag user may also choose to pay the toll tax in cash, if he has low balance in his linked account. Local Pass For private car owners residing within 20 km of a toll tax plaza, a monthly pass of Rs 255 with unlimited passage may be availed from a toll plaza directly. The same may also be affiliated to FASTag accounts for recharging online.   Resolving Problems To avail the fastest passage at toll plazas, passing through the dedicated FASTag channels is recommended. However, as all channels have been made hybrid in nature, under crisis conditions of heavy traffic congestion or in any emergency, the FASTag dedicated lanes are opened to accept cash payments too. Under such circumstances it is sometimes found that the non-FASTag vehicles are also entering the dedicated lanes, blocking faster passage. A FASTag bought for one car should not be used for another. If used, such a FASTag will get blocked, resulting in the denial of the vehicle’s passage through toll plazas. Way to Go Though the concept was initially slow at the beginning, with the increasing awareness and acceptance by motorists and fleet owners, it has picked up pace during the last year. According to Ravi Mishra, Senior Plaza Manager, Jaladhulagori Toll Plaza (Dhulagarh) "approximately 19% traffic out of the total 40,000 units that pass daily through Dhulagarh toll plaza, have FASTags at present." With the successful implementation of the system, there are plans to extend the usage of FASTag to toll plazas on State Highways, parking lots for parking fee payments and various other payments at wayside amenities. Maintenance • A FASTag sticker is made of a special kind of paper with an embedded flat RFID chip and a 3M sticker base. It is stuck on the windscreen from inside, behind the rear view mirror. Being flimsy, it has to be maint ained carefully. Once removed or damaged, it will not be reusable. The windscreen, specifically where it has the FASTag, must be kept clean for the RFID sensor to get activated while passing through toll plazas. • In spite of having a FASTag, if for some reason the boom barrier does not open at a toll plaza, it has to be checked whether there is sufficient balance in the linked FASTag account or if there is any blockage on the windscreen outside the FASTag blocking the sensors. • If a FASTag sticker gets damaged, the vehicle owner may approach the Issuer Agency for a replacement. In case a FASTag sticker gets lost or destroyed, one would need to call the customer care number of the Issuer Agency to block the FASTag and create a new account wherein the Issuer Agency would transfer the balance. • In the case of a car with the FASTag being sold or transferred; the Issuer Agency needs to be informed for transferring the balance. Waiting in a long queue, paying cash and counting change are passé! It is time for motorists to zip past the toll plazas. Sukhad yatra mobile app For buying FASTag and information regarding the location of toll plazas, restaurants, ATMs, hospitals and petrol pumps en route Www.tis.nhai.gov.in Information regarding the location of toll plazas and the exact toll tax amount at any toll plaza in india is available on this website. Before starting out on a long drive, the exact toll tax enroute may be found out Benefits Cash-back: With the use of FASTag, 5% cash-back is availed by motorists Faster passage: The ETC system facilitates a faster passage at all toll plazas Saves fuel: The streamlined movement helps reduce fuel cost

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