From next year, India’s electronic toll collection chip for national highways- FASTag is going to be mandatory for all vehicles. The government is eyeing a system wherein 100% of the toll collected at toll plazas are through FASTag and thereby, no cash handling. Currently, over 80% of all toll collected across the NHs is through FASTags, according to an IE report. FASTag is a tag or a sticker usually pasted on the car’s windscreen. To communicate with the scanner installed at toll plazas, the device uses RFID technology. The requisite toll amount is deducted automatically from a prepaid wallet or a bank account linked to the FASTag when the car crosses the toll plaza.
With FASTags, vehicles can drive through toll plazas across highways without stopping. If the FASTtag is linked to a prepaid account such as a debit/credit card or a wallet, then vehicle owners are required to recharge/top up the tag. If it is linked to the owner’s savings account, then the amount will automatically get deducted after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold. The owner gets an SMS alert on the deduction when the vehicle crosses the toll.
FASTags are available online on all major retail platforms such as Paytm, Amazon, Snapdeal etc. Besides, they are also available at points of sale locations set up by a total of 23 major banks. These tags are also sold by the Road Transport Authority offices. The network is also being expanded by the government to cover agents, dealers, commercial centres, fuel stations so that access to a FASTag is not an issue. The NHAI through its subsidiary Indian Highway Management Company Limited sells as well as operates FASTag. The FASTag taken from one bank cannot be used with another bank account. So vehicle owners prefer buying FASTag from the bank in which they have their account.
Besides, bank-neutral FASTags are sold by NHAI, issued by the IHMCL online which are not connected to any bank and the vehicle user is free to choose his payment mode that is to be linked to the FASTag account. In India, there are nearly 20 million FASTag users and an estimated 50 million vehicles. The FASTag users’ number has grown 400% in a year. Last year, in the month of December, it was not even one crore.
According to the IHMCL, banks are allowed to charge up to an amount of Rs 200 for issuing the tag including all taxes. Usually around Rs 200 for most cars is also charged as a security deposit. To keep the tag active, there is a minimum recharge amount of Rs 100. Apart from that, for every recharge, individual banks may charge an additional transaction fee. The best way to see how much they are charging is to check out the bank’s or prepaid wallet’s websites. At present, the security deposit cannot be used to pay toll. There are discussions going on if this security deposit can also be utilized as toll but it is not yet final. FASTags that are specific to vehicles and not persons are valid as long as they can be read by the scanner.
FASTags have been adopted by all the 615-odd NHAI toll plazas and as well as 100 toll plazas of state highways for toll collection. The IHMCL has My FASTag mobile application which can be connected to the FASTag. There is a unique number in every FASTag. According to the report, banks have their own mechanisms based on web.
In case, one finds himself/herself in a FASTag lane without a FASTag, he/she will have to pay double the toll amount. Even if due to some damage to the RFID or insufficient balance, FASTag is not functional, the user is liable to pay double the toll amount. In order to incentivize adoption and to make the tag a multi-utility payment tool, the Centre is planning to integrate FASTag for payments at wayside utilities at parking spaces, highways, etc.