Toll Roads: How you can Avoid a Hefty Fee
Authored By: Andrew Montanino
A common issue some rental customers encounter during their trip are expenses incurred on toll roads, especially if they are not aware they will be travelling on them.
As of 2020, 35 states now charge fees on various sections of Interstate, state/county highways, bridges, tunnels, express and HOV lanes – each with different rates and accepted forms of payment. Complicating the matter further is that there is no national standard of toll collection on these roads, nor is there a universal transponder/pass. Each state can choose its own policies, which can then again differ from route to route.
Methods of Toll Collection
The 2 main culprits of extended tolling costs to rental customers are Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) and Open Road Tolling (ORT.)
- ETC offers drivers an option of either stopping and paying at a toll booth, or driving through an “E-Z PASS” lane (or something similar) without having to stop, and for a reduced rate. (So long as they have the correct transponder and necessary funds in the associated account.)
- Unfortunately, because there is no universal transponder/pass that works in every tolling state so renter’s must either already have the local pass for that particular area or stop and pay at the booth, of which some may only accept either card or cash. Driving through an “E-Z PASS” lane without the correct equipment will trigger cameras in the toll gantry that will record the license plate and send a bill (typically with a penalty fee) to the registered owner (the rental company.)
- ORT tends to be more problematic for rental customers as this system does away with collection booths and express lanes altogether (removing the option for customer pay) and instead uses license plate scanners on any vehicle not equipped with an “E-Z Pass” to simply mail the vehicle’s registered owner (in this case City Rent a Truck) a bill. In some cases these toll systems are hard to identify while on the road.
Any unpaid toll bill is footed by the rental agency and the amount invoiced to the customer, usually with a separate administration fee for each transaction attached as well.
Our Toll Policy
Currently, all unpaid tolls that occur while in a City Rent A Truck Vehicle get processed by a third party vendor. Doing it this way, we actually are able to save our customers quite a bit of money in violation and late fees. There is however, a $15 administration fee for each toll that gets processed through the third party vendor, which gets passed on to the renter.”
Customers unaware of this can quickly find themselves with a bill that in some cases, can cost even more than their actual rental. These unforeseen expenses can easily multiply for company fleet managers, families/groups renting multiple vehicles, customers with trailers attached, or those who will be travelling to areas of the country with high toll road saturation.
The most obvious way to avoid these additional fees, is to pay the tolls as you go. However, as mentioned above, the un–manned ORT toll lanes make this impossible in certain cases. That is why we have detailed below, the best solutions to avoid hefty fees if you are travelling on ORT toll roads.
The best way to confront these additional costs to travel is knowledge. Knowing which parts of your route will be on toll roads and how they are collected is the most effective way to control the cost. Tollguru.com is a great place to start. The website has extensive information on each state’s tolling practices, the routes that they are on and a trip calculator to help prepare for the cost.
It also offers links to each state’s transportation website where you can purchase road passes, as long as you know ahead of time where your route will take you.
Another cost effective way to avoid tolls is by changing the settings on your sat-nav or mapping app (ie. Google Maps) to avoid tolls. While this may add a few minutes to your route, the savings can definitely be worth it.
Contact A Rep
Tolls can be tricky, especially when they are un–manned, and the fees can add up quickly if you aren’t prepared. If after reading this blog you still have any questions regarding tolls, just contact a rental rep at any of our 3 stores.