Car Rental Tolls Really Add Up

Tom Warne Report, 14 September 2012

Tribune Media Services – September 11, 2012

A company called PlatePass is racking up the fees for rental car tolls as one of several businesses which offer electronic toll payments through transponders in vehicles or by photographing license plates. These businesses are becoming the center of many complaints by rental car customers.

For example, a driver in Florida last month was charged $27.10 in tolls and fees to make the half-hour drive between the Orlando airport and his home in Winter Springs, Fla. in a rental car. The drive did not involve any costly bridges or tunnels, just a suburban sprawl linked by a flat toll road. Florida’s turnpike authority’s only received $3.50 of those tolls – the remainder went to PlatePass.

PlatePass works with car rental companies including Hertz and Advantage, and bills customers an “administrative fee” of $2.95 per day, up to $14.75 per month, beginning with the first toll incurred and continuing regardless of whether a driver passes through any additional toll booths.

In a similar case, a driver from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Dave Medin, took a 12-day vacation in Houston and paid cash for tolls, not realizing his license plates were also registering charges. “We were billed the minuscule toll, plus a $10 administrative fee,” he said. “I was asked to produce toll road receipts to show that I’d paid by cash, but to be honest, who asks for toll receipts on a family vacation, expecting to defend oneself against a bogus electronic charge?”

Providers of car rental electronic tolling services are “immensely” profitable, according to experts on those systems. The providers say the customers benefit from the technology because if drivers without a transponder or pre-registered plates incurred unpaid tolls, they could face fines of hundreds of dollars in place of the $10 or $20 extra fees charged by companies like Highway Toll Administration, the largest provider of these services which is utilized by Alamo, Avis and Enterprise.

Billing and fees are negotiated between the car rental agencies and the car rental tolling service companies, which pay the toll authorities and give the rental car companies a cut. The actual toll road authorities, do not receive any extra on the transactions.

I could write a whole editorial on this subject, having paid these fees many times. This is clearly a huge profit center for those involved. TW

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