The RFID system can help commercial vehicles save time and speed for delivery and needless fuel consumption, while reducing human error.
We are clearly living in a digital, cashless economy, with technology continuing to not only change but simplify our lives, whether we are at home, at work or on the roads. With the government setting a stringent deadline (Feb 16, 2021) for the implementation of FASTag earlier this week, it gives a strong signal to vehicles owners in the commercial sector to immediately get the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag, which facilitates electronic payment of fees at toll plazas.
The National Electronic Toll Collection – FASTag, which works with electronic payment systems developed by the National Payments Corporation of India, is a sticker that can be attached to the windshield of your car for implementing electronic toll collection across the national highways in India.
The RFID-enabled barcode linked with registration details of a vehicle would allow toll amounts to be deducted digitally from the user’s prepaid balance, thereby allowing private and commercial fleet to pass seamlessly without interacting with people at the toll plaza.
The story so far
A research report carried out by the Transport Corporation of India (TCI), in a joint venture with IIM Kolkata, that India incurs roughly a loss of USD 6.6 billion per year on account of transportation delays. This spurred them on to compel the Indian government to integrate Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) as soon as possible. This move led to the inception of FASTag, to simplify toll collection on all highways across the country.
An initiative of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the system was initially set up as a pilot project in 2014 on the stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
In July 2015, toll plazas on the Chennai-Bangalore stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral started accepting FASTag payments.
In October 2019, it was announced that FASTag will be mandatory on all National Highways from 1 December 2019 and non-FASTag users will be charged double the toll (the deadline for which was extended till Feb 16).
At present, over 600 toll plazas are connected with FASTag, prompting the government to make FASTag mandatory at every toll plaza in the country.
Why a big deal for commercial vehicles
The initiative aims to streamline the entire process of toll collection. On one hand, while it is a step up for the government’s Digital India initiative, on the other, the RFID technology can be a big gain for commercial vehicles, saving on time and costs, thus ensuring better customer experiences.
While businesses often find logistics and fleet management a big challenge, with issues ranging from bad weather to finding the correct routes to the pressure of making deliveries on time, drivers working in the commercial and trade sector highlight another huge challenge is wearisome and never ending toll queues, which often delays the delivery of goods to the warehouse or the customer.
The time spent in handing over the money, waiting for the tariff to be calculated, collecting the change and then waiting for the receipt can often be frustrating but also adds to time and fuel consumption.
Users of FASTag however expressed concerns about its theft or loss, considering this card is affixed as a tag on the windscreen. Technical glitches are also common as there may be times when the toll charge may be deducted twice from user’s account, in the wake of a technical error or a FASTag not working. The issuing bank can help users with this challenge. There’s also a FASTag customer portal, where users can register a claim and request for a refund in case of any payment related issues.
But there’s more reason to be optimistic. An ETAuto.com report noted last year that the quantum of commercial vehicles entering Delhi through its 13 RFID toll points has come down considerably to 90% since the tags were made mandatory in August last year. Before the RFID system’s launch, around 35,000 commercial vehicles used to enter national capital every day, which has dropped to 4,000 odd. This also explains why FASTag can be a good bet for commercial vehicles in India.