Home / Politics / Policy /  Soon, pay highway toll based on size of vehicle, road stress

NEW DELHI : The size of your vehicle and its potential stress on road infrastructure may soon determine how much toll you pay on national highways.

The government is planning a major revamp of the tolling policy that would shift from the present system of tolling based on fixed distance travelled on roads to one where it would be set based on actual time and distance covered on highways.

Also, the toll will be fixed on the basis of the actual size and weight of vehicles and not merely on the number of axles as it is now.

The idea is to levy toll based on how much space a vehicle occupies and how much weight it puts on the road infrastructure, resulting in faster wear and tear of roads, the official cited above said on the condition of anonymity.

The Union road ministry is discussing the proposal and may launch pilots in a couple of the upcoming greenfield expressway projects, including the Delhi-Mumbai corridor, before a nationwide rollout, the official added.

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To prepare the ground for the change, the ministry has also asked the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU)-Varanasi to calculate the latest passenger car unit (PCU) for various types of vehicles.

“Passenger car unit is a vehicle unit used for expressing highway capacity or how much road capacity a vehicle will use and for how long. This unit was determined several years ago, and in the meantime, the size of vehicles and their speed have undergone major changes. This will be captured in the revised passenger car unit, that could also become the basis for determining toll charges on highways," the official said.

Questions sent to the road ministry seeking details of the proposed changes remained unanswered till press time.

Mint had earlier reported that tolling might also shift from the present FASTag-based system to one using GPS, creating a tolling system based on actual road use. So, users with smaller and lighter vehicles covering smaller distances on highways would pay a lot less toll than those with bigger, heavier vehicles and covering longer distances.

“Location-based tolling should be introduced in phases as it would be a technological leap over the current system based on FASTag. Around 80% of toll collected in India is from the movement of freight by commercial vehicles, and this segment should be first exposed to the changes," said Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, director and practice leader – transport and logistics, Crisil Ltd.

“As processes stabilize, other segments could also be roped in to have a universal service for movement across the country. Technology adoption for change is not complex or expensive. But the adoption should be gradual, eliminating chances of disruptions," he added.

In the current system, toll rates have been determined on the basis of PCU calculated earlier. The number of axles also formed one of the criteria for determining toll rates. This meant that larger trucks with higher axle capacity paid more toll even if they were efficient, causing less damage to roads while carrying higher quantities of goods at a faster turnaround time. Also, the present tolling system does not capture the actual road distance covered by a vehicle. Tolls are charged at specific toll plazas for a full run, even if a vehicle exits the highway earlier.

The new system will reward efficient vehicles with lower toll rates, while those putting road infrastructure to wear and tear and consuming more time and occupying bigger space will be charged more.

The new tolling policy will be finalized after the IIT-BHU report on the revision of PCU expected in the next six months. After the report, PCU counts of various vehicles would be determined afresh. Also, location-based services would require GPS devices on vehicles and regulations to charge a toll on the basis of location will need to be finalized, for which Motor Vehicles Act would need to be amended.

“Work to finalize the new tolling policy is moving at a quick pace and could be announced in 2023," the official cited earlier said.

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