RTA's e-tag petrol payments move slammed by motorists

Current tolling model could prove disastrous for motorists at petrol stations

The New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is set to overhaul its tolling business by allowing motorists to purchase petrol using their personal e-tags, but this has already received criticism because of the millions of dollars it could potentially add to the organisation’s coffers.

Russell Howarth, owner of Sydney-based fleet Eco Taxi has slammed the idea, saying the move could have severe ramifications for business with a fleet of cars.

"You have to pre-pay no matter what. So if a fleet has 10 cars, they would need to have $1000 minimum available per day for petrol, so therefore at the start of each week there will need to be $10,000 available on the e-tag," Howarth said.

"If the e-tag system was one where they could check if your credit card was valid at the time, and then debit your card at the time, it would be a great idea. But why should the RTA get millions of dollars every day in advance?"

Media reports which surfaced this morning say the RTA is already in talks with industry-giant Caltex on how to implement the payment system.

It is believe a hand-held scanner will be used for motorists to fill their tanks, based on systems currently operating in Singapore and Hong Kong.

A spokesperson for the RTA told News Limited that: "The RTA is investigating opportunities to extend its E-Toll customer base and increase product options and value for existing customers."

But the pre-paid toll account model, whereby money is automatically deposited into your e-tag account from your bank account or credit card, has come under fire. Automatic payments are made when the e-tag account balance reaches the top up threshold, meaning the RTA could be sitting on a goldmine.

Sources say the organisation could double its current $170 million annual revenue.

“There is no way in the world I would pre-pay for petrol. I never know how much it costs to fill-up my tank at any one time, the RTA would probably need to debit $600 out of my account per week to cover it,” a Sydney Hills District motorist told Computerworld.

“Their scanners are very unreliable in the Lane Cove Tunnel, and I get billed at least once a month for driving through it. I don’t trust the system when it comes to filling up my tank.”

Eco Taxi's Howarth says there are a lot of issues with the e-tag system which could increase the amount of licence and registration cancellations.

"If you have an e-tag, there are a number of occasions where the e-tag doesn’t work and they then charge you an admin fee for sending a bill. Let’s say I’ve got $500 credit on my account, and these admin fees all accrue, and they send out the bill to the wrong address or it doesn’t get delivered – they could potentially cancel all the registrations in the fleet. It happened to two major hire car companies last year," Howarth said.

"If there were some safeguards that protected the uni-lateral power of the RTA in conjunction with the computerised system, then I think it would be a great idea. But at the moment it’s not as easy as you think."

New South Wales Taxi Council spokeswoman Tracey Cain says the decision to pay for petrol using an e-tag will come down to individual taxi drivers.

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