Do you drive a truck for a living, or perhaps you are considering it as a career? If so you probably know there’s a fairly steep learning curve involved in setting up your own trucking company and running it profitably. There are federal and state regulations that need to be adhered to and many expenses to account for in order to profitably quote rates for shipping freight.
This is the most common method of determining toll charges across the US, counting the number of axles with 5-axle, single trailer trucks being the most common configuration. Along with axle count, other specifications like single versus double tires, number of trailers and axles-per-trailer can all factor into toll charges.
Along with axle count the dimensions of the vehicle are often used in determining toll charges, including the width, height and length of the vehicle. For example, the New York State Thruway factors in both axle count and height of vehicle when determining toll charges, with vehicles exceeding 7’6″ having a separate classification.
This often surprises many first-time truckers, but some tolling facilities including the Pennsylvania Turnpike charge truck tolls by weight. It may not be evident when you pull up to pay at the booth, but you’re actually driving onto a scale that is weighing the truck and applying the corresponding fee.
If you’re planning on just bringing a wad of bills with you to pay for any tolls along your route you may find yourself in for a surprise as an increasing number of toll facilities no longer accept cash. In fact toll booths in general are disappearing from highways around the globe as new technologies enable high speed tolling via overhead gantries with transponder readers and video cameras to capture the license plates of vehicles without transponders, who are then sent a bill by mail to the address registered to the plate.
In 2016 a number of major toll systems made the shift to AET (all-electronic-tolling) including the Tappan Zee Bridge in upstate New York and the entire Massachusetts Turnpike, and this trend will increase in the coming years as the state of New York has made the commitment to move all it’s tolling facilities to AET. In fact it’s increasingly rare to find any new toll facility being introduced that accept cash.
Along with AET, another major trend in tolling in the US has been the rapid spread of Express Lanes (also known as Managed Lanes or Hot Lanes). These lanes are located in metropolitan areas and often utilize existing HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes by allowing solo drivers the option to pay to drive on them. The goal is to better manage rush hour traffic, and one of the unique aspects of an increasing number of these lanes is that pricing is dynamic, changing as frequently as every 5 minutes based on traffic patterns.
You can learn more about Express Lanes here, but the important thing for truckers to know is that many of these lanes are for passenger vehicles only and so may not be an option for commercial freight carriers. However these rules are changing and as more of these systems get introduced truckers will likely find Express Lanes as a viable option to bypassing traffic in metropolitan areas.