Toll rates are expected to only increase in the future, although how often rates are raised varies by each state or toll agency.  -  Photo: Bestpass

Toll rates are expected to only increase in the future, although how often rates are raised varies by each state or toll agency.

Photo: Bestpass 

Truck tolls are a part of the daily lives of many vocational and work truck fleets in the US. The International Toll and Turnpike Association states that more than 5,000 miles of toll roads exist in 35 U.S. states and territories.

While not every fleet deals with tolls daily, most of them encounter them regularly. Toll roads are a way for government entities to fund road infrastructure since the gas tax isn't enough to cover transportation expenses.

Unfortunately, toll rates are not decreasing, impacting fleets' bottom line. However, fleet managers can take some actions to mitigate the effects of toll rate increases.

To learn more about the topic, Work Truck interviewed Jason Walker, the chief revenue officer at Bestpass, who shared insights about toll rate increases, their impact on fleets, and what fleet managers can do today.

Why Do We Have Toll Roads?

So, why do we have toll roads? According to Walker it’s to ensure more reliable travel times and helps increase the quality of road infrastructure.

“Secondary and non-tolled roads are often not in the same quality of condition as tolled roads. This can result in longer travel times, more stop-and-starts, causing increased fuel costs, and higher vehicle maintenance costs due to potholes, rough or uneven surfaces, and more congestion,” Walker explained.

Often, tolled expressways offer faster access and quicker route travel times than non-tolled infrastructure.

“While there is a cost to access express tolled lanes, the cost is usually more than offset in the savings of time, fuel, and maintenance,” Walker added.  

When looking at tolls, there are multiple regional and state-based toll passes that cover consumers and commercial vehicles.

“Rates and the number of toll locations vary by each state, but the key point to be aware of is that regional toll passes are not universal and are, in most circumstances, not accepted by outside toll agencies,” Walker said. “This presents a huge challenge for work truck fleets that travel cross country or even regionally where multiple toll passes are required and often results in violations and huge fees levied on companies.”

Do you still believe the proverbial myth that avoiding toll roads leads to the most cost-effective routes?  -  Photo: Bestpass | Work Truck

Do you still believe the proverbial myth that avoiding toll roads leads to the most cost-effective routes?

Photo: Bestpass | Work Truck

U.S. Tolls are on the Rise

The cost of tolls on U.S. roads varies, and the amount of tolls has increased, which also varies depending on where you are.

According to Walker, toll rate increases hit the bottom line for commercial work truck companies in three ways:

  1. The rate increases themselves result in growing costs for tolls.
  2. Without an effective toll management provider, work truck companies may not know how much they spend each month/year on tolls. Without that data, companies are flying blind when budgeting and forecasting expenses.
  3. Certain fleet management companies attach a fee (as a percentage) for each toll, which can increase according to the tolls, costing commercial work truck companies even more money.  

But, before you start planning your routes to avoid these toll roads and save on the fees, Walker had some insight. 

“We often hear from fleets before they become customers that they would plan routes to avoid toll roads and locations because they didn’t want to deal with the hassles of receiving toll bills in the mail and possible hefty fees from violations,” he said, noting the belief results in a proverbial myth that avoiding toll roads leads to the most cost-effective routes.

“In stark contrast, our data often shows that incorporating toll roads in routes leads to shorter commutes for work trucks. Additionally, toll roads are often in better overall condition because maintenance is funded by the toll revenue collected, which can lead to less wear and tear of vehicles that travel them,” Walker explained. 

Fleet Fast Facts

  • The Pennsylvania Turnpike is the most expensive toll road in the U.S. with the average cost for a two-axle vehicle being $112.91.
  • Bestpass processed over $1.6B in tolls in 2023.
  • There are 60-plus toll authorities/agencies in the U.S. alone.

Mitigating Fleet Toll Rate Increases

To work on mitigating the expenses of increased tolls, Walker recommended every fleet of work trucks review the breakdown of toll spending each month.

“How much did you spend on tolls each month last year? After doing that, you can create a baseline monthly spend and calculate the monthly average this year with the new toll rates,” Walker recommended.

He added that the challenge in doing this for most fleets with work trucks is having accurate and timely data on how much you are spending each month.

“Bestpass solves this problem via the network of relationships and integrations we’ve established with over 60-plus tolling authorities that allows tolls to be posted for our customers generally within 48-72 hours (compared to two to three weeks with a regional toll pass). We also offer cost center reporting that easily highlights and separates toll expenses by cost center,” he added.  

Another step commercial work truck companies should take is understanding if you receive all available toll discounts.

“Without a toll management provider like Bestpass, certain bulk discounts are unavailable to fleets depending on the size of the fleet and the type of vehicles,” Walker said.

Do you still believe the proverbial myth that avoiding toll roads leads to the most cost-effective routes?  -  Photo: Bestpass | Work Truck

Do you still believe the proverbial myth that avoiding toll roads leads to the most cost-effective routes?

Photo: Bestpass | Work Truck

Choosing the Right Toll Management Provider

According to Walker, there are a few factors and questions to ask that are critical to consider when choosing a toll management provider: 

  1. Can the provider give you accurate visibility into tolls in near real-time so that you can make your fleet more productive and efficient? 
  2. How will the toll provider help you reduce your administrative fees and violations? 
  3. Does the provider have an API or other integrations that help automate data changes and allow enhanced reporting to drive change across the fleet?
  4. How does the provider help support toll discrepancies or max toll charges?
  5. Do they have dedicated support? 

Tech + Toll = Efficiency

Fleet managers often don't have time to spare chasing down toll-related data, but saving money is essential.

“Bestpass's integrations with tolling authorities are an example of an advancement that provides enormous value because it allows us to consolidate all tolls into one account for customers. Our platform also provides analytics that can tell customers if they are paying max or minimum toll rates and paying more toll-by-plate in places where a transponder would save them money,” Walker explained. 

Recently, Bestpass integrated its toll data with telematics data in the myGeotab interface through a partnership with Geotab.

“This is a huge advancement and advantage for fleets because it provides out-of-the-box reporting that allows fleets to identify toll discrepancies and incorrect charges, and overall, it will make planning and managing fleets much more efficient,” Walker added.

Truck Tolling in the Future

One thing is clear: Toll rates will only increase in the future, although how often rates are raised varies by each state or toll agency.

“Until this year, many states had kept rates relatively unchanged for a long period, but COVID-19 wiped out most, if not all, the reserves for these states. This is the major cause for the rate increases we’re seeing at the start of the year, and ongoing maintenance of toll roads is a key reason why we should expect to see rate increases continue in the future,” Walker said.

The evolution of toll management will closely mirror changes in technology and the needs of customers.

“Without going into too much detail, most toll locations have adapted to All Electronic Tolling (AET). Multiple technologies are the underpinning of AET, which is why other agencies can’t read some toll passes. Commercial truck companies can future-proof against technological changes by partnering with a toll management provider like Bestpass that does all the legwork to keep them current and compliant,” Walked concluded.

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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