Featured Article: No wait for weight

Todd Dills | December 01, 2009

Other discounts may be available as well. Large fleets can obtain discounts on tolls based on their use of the automated toll-road network in high volume. And PrePass offers the PrePass Plus system to fleet customers, aggregating weigh-station bypassing and toll-collection functionality into a single transponder per truck. For fleets of five or fewer trucks and owner-operators, though, the ability to reap the rewards of volume-discounted pricing was limited until recently.

Today, Kautz is a member of the BestPass network, with a weigh-station-bypassing/toll-collection “fusion” transponder in his truck. Running mainly between United Steel Deck facilities in Illinois and South Carolina and the Northeast, Kautz is able via BestPass to achieve volume discounts on tolls in three states, in addition to built-in E-ZPass discounts.

With BestPass, explains spokesperson Rebecca Paslowski, the fusion transponder is equipped with four services. “It comes programmed with the E-ZPass services,” she says, covering toll collection in 16 states in the Northeast, Midwest and mid-Atlantic as far west as Illinois and south to Virginia. She says it’s also compatible with PrePass, NorPass and NC Pass, North Carolina’s independent weigh-station service.

BestPass offers volume discounts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and either on the New York ThruWay or in Maryland, the latter two of which don’t have a companion account capability, meaning your account must be set up with one of them to get the volume discounts. BestPass customers like Kautz, then, depending on which state makes sense for them given the toll miles they run, have a choice of including one or the other in their BestPass volume discounts. When Maryland raised its tolls this year and New York raised the amount of bond required for toll postpayment (from $100 to more than $200, Kautz says), he switched to Maryland.

“With it being as quiet as it is now with freight, it was going to cost me more money in bonding in New York than I would get with discounts,” he says. The advantages in Maryland, though the state’s toll mileage is considerably less than the lengthy New York ThruWay, continued with great percentage discounts. “With Maryland, you get a 2.5 percent discount all the time with BestPass; if you do $100 worth for a month, it goes to 17 percent. With tolls going the way they’re going in Maryland, $100 isn’t hard to do anymore.”

One of the primary benefits of BestPass – and PrePass Plus for larger fleets – is in the ability for haulers to have a one-stop source for billing and service inquiries. In tolling, say Kautz and others, pre-paying multiple state toll authorities with E-ZPass can be an accounting nightmare. “Actually, I had E-ZPass before BestPass,” says Kautz. “What I like about BestPass is that I can postpay it. They would e-mail the bill at the end of the month and I would just send them one check to cover three tolls – the money was in my bank account instead of in theirs.”

BestPass “can also save you $5 a month on PrePass,” says Paslowski.

Implementation of open-road tolling is coming in more facilities, too, which makes transponders for tolls potential time-savers. FedEx White Glove Services owner-operator Phil Madsen points to new facilities on I-90 and elsewhere through metro Chicago that have been a big help for his time-sensitive straight-Class 8 expedited operation. n


Doing your own PrePass account

When owner-operator Micheal Duke, based in Norman, Okla., was a company driver with CRST Van Expedited, he wasn’t able to get a PrePass account. Once he transitioned to leasing a truck with CRST, he jumped to enroll in the PrePass weigh-station bypassing system.

He had the choice of maintaining his own PrePass account or allowing the fleet to administer it and deduct from his settlements $2 a month. He chose to save the couple of bucks and now pays the monthly $16 fee, which is billed to his credit card. “I can get online then and see on the PrePass website why I got red-lighted if I got pulled in,” he notes. “Usually, it’s because the rolling scale didn’t weigh you properly or they’re just doing random checks.”

Duke’s in a good position for bypasses, though: “I’ve never had a failed inspection,” he says.


A combo discount

Owner-operator Philip Kautz runs the BestPass fusion transponder, aggregating weigh-station bypassing and electronic toll collection in the E-ZPass network in one device. With BestPass, he’s also been able to achieve volume discounts in three E-ZPass states, which over the last year have amounted to more than $100 saved on the Pennsylvania Turnpike alone.

 

 Pennsylvania Turnpike savings, October 2008-September 2009