Fleet managers have to deal with a lot of day-to-day expenses. Fuel and maintenance are the most obvious and often among the highest, but they are not the only recurring costs to consider. Fleets also need to think about tolls.
There are over 100 toll roads in the United States, covering over 5,000 miles. Any fleet operating in multiple states will likely have to deal with this at some point. Fleets should adopt a defined approach to managing tolls if this is a regular expense. Here are five tips for getting the most out of such a strategy.
1. Use transponders
One of the simplest yet most effective ways to optimize toll management is to use transponders instead of cash. Several states are eliminating cash toll booths entirely, but they are often the best choice, even when transponders are optional.
Cash transactions take longer and require additional overhead from road authorities. Therefore, many toll roads and bridges offer lower rates to transponder users to encourage more drivers to use them. Installing transponders in your fleet will also help drivers avoid traffic at toll booths, resulting in more efficient routes and lower fuel costs.
Some toll systems offer volume discounts for prepaid transponders. Check the schedules in areas your fleet passes through often to see if you qualify for any of these discounts.
2. Avoid peak hours
Another way to improve toll management is to plan routes around peak times on toll roads. Many of these highways change their rates based on the amount of traffic they usually see at any given time. For example, the George Washington Bridge in New York costs $2 more during peak hours.
This difference may seem small, but it can add up over time. Fleets can avoid these higher rates by planning routes so drivers only use toll roads during off-peak hours. These adjustments are not always possible, but are worth considering.
3. Use AI to your advantage
Calculating the best times to leave and the best routes to take to minimize tolls can be complicated. Fortunately, you can leave these complex calculations to automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) route planning can take into account multiple factors to automatically suggest the most affordable and efficient route for each trip.
Sometimes it’s better to route drivers through different areas because some states like Arizona don’t have toll roads or charge lower fees. In others, using a toll road during off-peak hours may be more economical to get drivers to their destination faster. The AI can calculate factors in real time to account for this variability, giving you the best route every time.
4. Check for errors
Another easy-to-ignore best practice for fleet management is reviewing billing statements for errors. Transponders are convenient, but they are not always accurate. Reading errors and misclassifications can result in bills up to 60% higher than they should be.
Always review billing statements in detail and keep your own records for reference. If something seems out of place, examine it. Finding and disputing billing errors could save you a lot of money.
Keep in mind that some errors may come from your own operations. Make sure drivers don’t change transponders between vehicles, as this could cause the system to be misclassified, which could increase their rates.
5. Consolidate your data
If you follow all these steps, you will have a lot of information in your hands. Consolidating this data into a single platform where you can see it all in context is simple but crucial. Managing tolls and routes could take much longer than necessary if you don’t.
A fleet of 100 vehicles can devote 16 hours per month to toll management. A system for consolidating related data and automating basic tasks will help reduce this time, allowing employees to focus on other more pressing tasks.
Better toll management will save you time and money
Toll management can significantly affect the efficiency and profitability of a fleet. These five steps will help any fleet reduce tolling expenses and find the most profitable routes for each trip. You can then operate as efficiently as possible without fear of unforeseen expenses.