In 2018, certain videos were popping up on the internet that stated one need not pay the toll fee if they have been waiting behind the yellow line at a booth. This led to multiple skirmishes between the toll operators, who had no idea that such a thing existed, and the commuters. However, a new rule has been enforced now. A document from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways states that road users in four-wheelers need not pay the toll if they have been waiting at the toll plaza for more than 10 seconds. At the same time, toll plazas have been instructed to draw a yellow line 100 metres before the booth entry. If there are vehicles behind the yellow line, then the toll operator will have to let the cars ahead go without paying the tax.
This is being done to “ensure service time of not more than 10 seconds per vehicle even during peak hours at the toll plazas on the National Highways.” The document also states that currently, there are no wait times at toll plazas, especially because all customers have switched to FASTags. The NHAI claims to have successfully transitioned to a fully cashless tolling from mid-February 2021. The overall FASTag penetration has reached 96% at NHAI toll plazas, with some places reaching as high as 99%. Given that electronic toll collection has increased overall, the upcoming toll plazas can be constructed to have an efficient toll collection system and according to the traffic projections for the next 10 years.
In our current climate where we're facing a global pandemic in the form of Covid-19, a system like FASTag also helps in maintaining social distancing as there is minimal contact between the customer and the operator. However, the aforementioned rule’s implementation might be a problem. Currently, it will only work on the cash lanes but not on the FASTag lanes, as the moment the vehicle approaches the toll window, the system will automatically deduct the toll amount. If the toll operator decides to stop this practice by some means, then it can work. Furthermore, one also needs to question why will the toll operator focus on making revenue for his company. It is also unclear currently if the commuter has to tell the operator about the new rule or is it the toll plazas’ responsibility to inform their employees of the same.