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How to Prevent Toll Violations from Crippling Your Trucking Company

Does your trucking company struggle with toll violations? Toll violations generally occur because the transponder or license plate does not match the valid toll account. This occurs when tolling systems scan license plates as the trucks pass through. A toll violation is a term used by some toll authorities, but that is not the only term you may be accustomed to. Some states use toll by mail, plate toll bills or plate toll invoices.

If you operate a trucking company, you must contend with toll roads at some point. That’s why it is critical you maintain an effective toll management strategy. Fleet manager must be able to anticipate violations and take steps to ensure they do not continually occur. And when they do occur? Qualified fleet managers need to understand the steps they need to take to take care of them.

There are challenges, however. These challenges must include an understanding of how violations work. These violations are compounded by differences in policies and procedures between the many toll facility operators throughout the nation. However, there are several key steps that trucking companies must do to support a mitigation strategy. Violations must be prevented, otherwise they will negatively impact on fleet operations and the bottom line. Let’s talk a little bit more about violations.

What Are Violations and How Do They Work?

Toll violations and paper toll bills occur when a vehicle passes through a toll booth or toll gantry without the transaction being recorded and validated in a standard way. The key is how the toll is recorded. While many toll facility operators focus on transponders as the primary means for capturing toll transactions, it isn’t the only method.

They also often implement a toll by plate system as a backup system. This is in case there is a transponder malfunction. As a truck or other vehicle travels through a gantry or other toll reader, the system will look for a transponder but also capture an image of the vehicle’s license plate.

In the end, a violation will occur under several circumstances:

  1. If the toll system does not identify a transponder in the vehicle
  2. Is unable to match the transponder with a valid account

If either of these two scenarios occur, then the tolling authority will attempt to identify the trucking company that owns the vehicle by reviewing license plate capture images and matching the information with plates active on existing accounts. Once all these options are exhausted, and no match is found, the transaction is likely to turn into a violation. At the minimum, they will make these efforts before issuing a violation.

Several Violations Could Result from Lax Tolling Policy

But there is another scenario where the trucking company in question will suffer financial loss if they don’t have their ducks in order. If the toll facility operator is unable to identify a transponder or a license plate on a known account, then it will attempt to reference the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records in the relevant state. This additional processing adds time and expense for the authority, which then results in increased cost for the trucking company in question.

Once the tolling authority identifies the trucking company that owns the vehicle, it will either post the toll to an active account or issue a plate toll invoice via snail mail, depending on the state. No matter what happens, an administrative fee will be added to the toll amount, resulting in a greater expense than a transponder-based transaction.

In some cases, a tolling authority will have three toll rates:

  1. A transponder rate
  2. A plate by toll rate
  3. And finally, a toll by mail rate

Toll by mail rates are generally more expensive due to the administrative duties associated with them. There will also be a delay in the fleet receiving the charge due to the additional processing time required by the tolling authority, especially in the case of the mailed paper invoice. Still, there are other challenges trucking companies face when it comes to tolling.

Problems with Interoperability Plague National Toll Systems

The vast majority of tolling authorities focus on transponders as the primary means for capturing toll transactions. And yet, each state has their own policy and system. However, over time, multiple transponder protocols have evolved. As a result, different states have developed different methodologies and requirements. In many cases, they require different devices. If a fleet operates nationally, or even across two incompatible regions, then it will need to consider a toll management plan that uses multiple transponders to avoid violations.

This represents the biggest problem fleets face when it comes to tolling. Since each tolling authority has different policies and business rules, fleets must adapt. Generally, trucking companies will have to assign a person, or even multiple people, to research the violation requirements and procedures for each tolling authority wherever the fleet operates. The larger the fleet, or the farther it travels, the more complexity it must deal with with respect to violation prevention and processing. This can represent a huge headache – and expense – for the trucking company and their back office.

Fortunately, fleets can turn to technology vendors for the answer. New technology companies have the means to track requirements state-by-state. A simple Google search should reveal a number of options available for trucking companies who need a toll management solution.

Keys to Minimizing Toll Violations

Let’s be clear about one thing. A fleet can never truly eliminate the possibility of violations. It is simply impossible, especially if the fleet operates many vehicles across state lines. But there are several key steps trucking companies can take that can significantly minimize violations.

As a result, violations will have a more minimal impact on fleet operations and the bottom line. In addition, if a fleet does receive a violation, it is important to review the transaction to ensure that it is accurate and belongs to a vehicle in the fleet.

First, fleet managers must make sure they have installed the right transponders in their vehicles. Installing the right transponder or transponders in a vehicle is the best way to minimize the risk of violations. This is especially true as the rise of cashless tolling across the United States grows. This has resulted in new challenges for commercial fleets, especially heavy toll facility users who operate across state lines. Strategically managing transponder deployment across a fleet helps lessen the impact of higher toll rates, administrative fees, and delayed billing associated with toll by plate and violations transactions.

Trucking companies must ensure they do incur a violation, they act quickly. If a fleet reallocates or rebills its toll fees as a standard business practice, then the delay created by violations can disrupt accounting and financial reporting. As a result, they may experience billing delays or increased costs. With a transponder, transactions post as quickly as possible, typically between 24 and 72 hours.

License Plate Management is Critical

Here is the key, your toll management policy won’t work well if aren’t also properly tracking your license plates. You must ensure your license plates are fully updated with the tolling authorities. State authorities must have all the up-to-date information regarding your commercial motor vehicle, who drives them, and their registration information. Many tolling authorities require transponders to be associated with vehicle plates when they are activated on the account, but this is not a universal practice across states.

At some point, or possibly on multiple occasions, a fleet might receive a violation on a license plate that they have never owned or on a plate that no longer belongs to the company. So, what do they do next? How can they dispute the transaction and, more importantly, ensure that it does not happen again?

If the fleet did once own that plate but no longer does, then they would need to produce a bill of sale that notes both the vehicle and the license plate in question. If they turned the plates in prior to the date of the toll transaction, then they would need to produce the receipt showing they submitted those plates.

The other option is to obtain a registration or title abstract from the DMV on the plate in question. This is a summary of the registration history on the plate. Requirements vary from state to state. But a fee will follow. Maybe the fleet never owned the plate or did not at the time of the transaction. They will need to provide proof of this.

In the end, the best idea is to utilize a service that tracks regulations across states and helps trucking companies with license plate and transponder management. Otherwise, fleets may be needlessly impacting their bottom line.

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