A Toll Plaza Booth is a counter/booth on a toll road where the driver must stop to pay the toll taxes to drive any further. Toll roads are usually national and state highways where these toll booths are stationed. Several toll booths in a row constitute a toll plaza. Also, it is levied only on all four-wheelers or larger vehicles.
What is a Toll or a Toll-Tax?
Toll, also called toll-tax, is a type of tax, that the government charges on certain roads like highways, interstate expressways, turnpikes, tunnels, and bridges. It is often called the NH fee (National Highway fee). These roads are called toll roads, toll bridges/tunnels, or tollways. It is a kind of fee levied from road drivers (of these specific toll roads) for road infrastructure purposes.
Why Pay Toll Tax after Road Tax?
Both toll taxes and road taxes are to recoup the construction and maintenance costs. The difference lies in the type of roads that the central/state government manages and spends these taxes on. First of all, the road taxes are state-levied, unlike the toll tax. The state governments charge the road tax one time from every vehicle owner right at the time of vehicle registration. The RTO collects the road tax and the state government spends them on state roads.
On the other hand, the NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) under the central government manages the toll collection. So, it is the NHAI that sets up booths to collects the toll taxes. They collect the toll tax only from the four-wheeled or larger vehicle drivers who pass by toll roads. Therefore, they do not charge from those vehicle owners who do not go through tollways. Drivers may pass by multiple toll plazas and will have to pay each time.
How Toll Booths Function?
Toll booths also have other terms for themselves like toll houses, toll stations, toll gates, and toll barriers. This is where the driver must stop to pay before going any further. People call it ‘Toll Naka’ in Hindi. The toll booths do not charge the toll taxes from pedestrians, but, from both the domestic and commercial vehicle users who pass through toll plazas. However, the fee differs for heavy and light vehicles and the NHAI revises it annually. Toll varies as per the size (passenger-carrying capacity) or weight and the load-carrying capacity. This is because the toll tax calculation is according to the damage to the roads that vehicles cause. This in turn is dependent on the size and load carriage of the vehicles.
For example, trucks are heavier, carry more load, and can cause more damage than a car. This is also the reason that the toll plazas do not levy fees on pedestrians and two-wheeler drivers. They do not cause much damage to the roads. Also, many local villagers or nearby inhabitants walk use bikes on these toll roads.
Importance of FASTag for Toll Tax Collection
Now, FASTags have been introduced by GOI (Government of India) which is mandatory for all four-wheeled vehicles. FASTag is a tag that employs RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology and enables digital toll payment. Vehicle owners must fit the FASTag on the windshields of four-wheelers. It is because the operators at the toll plazas can do cashless payments. FASTags are provided and operated by 23 National banks, governed by NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India). It is a PAN India program.
You can buy a Paytm FASTag for easy and convenient payments. You can recharge the Paytm FASTag as well as the one from other providers using Paytm Wallet. One can do payments through UPI, credit/debit card, or net banking. You can also check the balance and get notifications of toll taxation.
The FASTag facility automates toll deduction directly from the bank accounts. This eliminates the manual collection of the tax at toll plazas making it a quicker process. This also saves time for the vehicle drivers as they need not stop at every toll booth that comes in the way. It prevents them from waiting if there are queues or facing traffic jams.
The Union Road Transport & Highways Ministry is planning to introduce a new system of GPS-based toll tax collection in a couple of years. If implemented, then the toll tax will be deducted directly from the bank account of the individual based on the vehicle movement. This will lead to the removal of toll booths and will enable smooth traveling. Apart from lesser traffic congestion, the government can save money by cutting off the costs of maintenance of toll plazas.
There are certain people and vehicles that the NHAI exempts from the toll tax payments. They are:
- Central and State ministers are exempted from toll tax. The list includes the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, and the Member of Parliament. It also applies to the Governor, Speaker/Chairman of Legislative Assembly/Council, etc.
- Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court Judge, and Judge of a High Court
- Defense personals, Army Commanders, Vice-Chief of Army Staff and equivalent positions in military services
- It excludes the awarded military persons. For instance, the awardees of Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, Param Vir Chakra, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra, and Ashok Chakra
- It exempts the vehicles belonging to NHAI and the government agencies. It also excludes the vehciles of military/paramilitary or police. The fire fighting departments’ vehciles, ambulances as well as funeral vans are also not charged the toll
The NHAI also gave a new guideline. It stated that no individual has to wait for more than 10 seconds for toll tax. If s/he expects to wait for a longer duration, then can skip toll tax. The person will be exempted in such a case. However, under FASTag payment, deductions happen automatically as one approaches a toll booth. Hence, it is not very effective with FASTags.
Wrapping it up:
Toll tax is an innovative way for a consecutive revenue stream. The highways and expressways are responsible for interstate connectivity. Thus, the toll tax helps in consistent up-gradation and adequate improvement of the roads. There is no toll tax charge in domestic lanes or city roads. Toll also makes the maintenance process independent from the tax-based revenue generated from other sources.
- Revenue from income and services taxes can be put to multiple uses whereas toll tax is specifically used for toll road infrastructure
- Road tax is also for road infrastructure but for a particular state/region. It is under State’s control whereas toll taxes are for highways under NHAI
- Tolls are calculated as per the length of the road stretch in one project which is usually 60 kilometers. If the stretch of the road is less, then it is charged according to the actual length. The maintenance contract is usually given to a private company that is responsible for a particular stretch/project of the highway
- It is based on vehicle size, the load they carry, and the damage done to roads
- Toll booths provide you with toll receipts that you can reach out for free in case of an emergency (like a car breakdown or accident). They can help you with an ambulance, fire ambulance, and towing cranes. Toilets, drinking water facilities, and bus bays are also stationed near toll plazas
- The contractor/company looking after that highway stretch is duty-bound to come to your aid