Florida's SunPass goes video toll with five major rental car companies

September 28, 2007

Florida will soon have the nation's largest video toll program with two statewide rental car deals and others on the way. Florida Turnpike Enterprise which runs the state's SunPass transponder account system today announced contract agreements with American Traffic Solutions which is acting on behalf of Avis, Budget and Hertz and with Rent A Toll acting for Dollar and Thrifty. The Turnpike announcement, the first for rental car video tolls throughout a heavily tolled state, says officials are hopeful of reaching agreement shortly for Enterprise, Alamo and National to join in video tolling too.

Under the agreement the agency companies - in this case ATS and Rent A Toll - will supply the Sunpass agency with constantly updated lists of license plate numbers and other details of vehicles in the rental car fleets that are eligible for video billing. The Sunpass system's video enforcement cameras will record the passes of rental cars under their gantries. With potential violators' number plates run against the list of eligible vehicles the rental car users will be billed the tolls instead of getting violation notices.

Different billing styles

Under agreements between video toll agencies (ATS and Rent A Toll) and their rental car clients car renters are charged tolls that cover toll costs plus a margin for other costs and profit. ATS PlatePass bills renters for actual tolls plus a daily fee, while Rent A Toll under their branded Pass24 charges a larger flat daily fee regardless of toll charges incurred.

Both ATS and Rent A Toll pioneered their video tolling in Houston and Dallas - on the Harris County and North Texas Tollway systems.

Highway Toll Administration LLC which claims to be the largest and most long established rental car toller - it issues E-ZPass transponders through much of the northeast and mid-Atlantic states - stood aside in Florida. Their president David Centner told us the situation there is "very fluid" and they prefer to wait until things settle out.

He is referring to the rebuild of Florida's toll system being undertaken by Raytheon, the high likelihood of a transition to low cost sticker tags, and the possibility that the state will abolish cash collection.

Centner thinks there may be some confusion as to where video tolling will work in Florida and some disappointment.

It works for rental cars going through SunPass-Only lanes. In mixed mode lanes where SunPass transponders work along with cash collection there will be no video toll. Rental car customers will have to pay cash.

The agreements with the Turnpike are "non-exclusive" so others can enter later if they can sell their services to rental car companies, Centner says.

For now American Traffic Solutions (ATS) with Avis, Budget and Hertz are the clear leader in Florida. They started PlatePass a few days ago - Sept 24 - for those company's vehicles statewide and also for their vehicles from out of state but traveling on Florida tollroads. Jim Tuton of ATS says that with whole national fleets of three rental cars in their database vehicles moving from one state to another are always "enabled" for customers to use their service.

Nearly Florida-wide

SunPass covers not only the Florida Turnpike tollroads but also the tollroads of Tampa and Miami-Dade. The E-Pass system of the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority is doing PlatePass and Pass24 video tolling too.

The separate LeeWay electronic toll system on toll bridges in Lee County (Fort Myers on the west coast) is not yet covered, but will be joining soon.

Rent A Toll on behalf of Dollar and Thrifty will be offering video toll service in the Orlando area from October 7 and through the rest of Florida by the end of October, they say.

ATS PlatePass will enrol all vehicles of the three rental car companies (Avis, Budget, Hertz) automatically. PlatePass will bill the car renters' credit cards by the amount of tolls plus a daily fee of $2.00 to $2.50 levied on days when a toll charge is incurred by the car renter.

Rent A Toll's Pass24 on Dollar and Thrify cars will provide coverage of unlimited tolls for a flat daily fee of $5.95 or a weekly $27.95 for the time the car is rented.

Ely says "great news"

Jim Ely chief executive at Florida's Turnpike Enterprise is quoted as saying the car rental agreements are "exciting news" since they will bring the benefits of electronic tolling to thousands more vehicles. What he doesn't say there is they also reduce toll operators losses from unpaid tolls.

Tollroads in Florida are rapidly reducing the role of cash toll collection. Miami Dade Expressway Authority has a program for phasing out cash collection over the next several years. The Turnpike Enterprise is making all its new toll points transponder-only. Both the Turnpike and Orlando are converting barrier plazas to highway speed open road tolling through the middle.

Tampa toll authority have no cash collection on their new reversible elevated express express lanes in the Crosstown Expressway and already do video tolling there for normal customers.

SunPass has 3.5m transponders in use and about 2.5m accounts, and does 64% of toll transactions to 36% cash.

Rental car companies say most customers love the convenience of being covered for tolls automatically.

PlatePass plans

Jim Tuton of ATS PlatePass says they have been working with E-470 to do video tolling for rental cars on the Denver CO system. He's hopeful they will be operational by the time the ski season starts.

In a year he predicts video tolling will be far more commonplace: "Once people see how well it works, it's likely to be rapidly taken up."

Once video tolling is well established with rental cars and the brand is known, Tuton hopes to persuade tollers to allow video tolling to be extended to the general public.

"We could open up PlatePass to the general public so they could log in by telephone with voice prompts or on the web. They'd give us their license plate number and credit card, and that would be it. We'd pay the tolls for that car and they could use the open road toll lanes. They could enrol and pay tolls on the road."

TOLLROADSnews 2007-09-27 ADDED HTA comments 2007-09-28 12:20 ATS extras 15:00

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