The Ministry of Transportation and Communications could consider giving on-board unit (OBU) owners a 20 percent discount on freeway tolls if the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (遠通電收, FETC) provided OBUs for free.
“This could be a direction worth considering,” deputy minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said on Friday.
The discount was first proposed by FETC, the contractor operating the freeway electronic toll collection (ETC) system under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model. FETC spokeswoman Lang Ya-ling (郎亞玲) said this would be an effective way to increase the usage rate of OBUs, but added that it would be impossible for the company to give OBUs to motorists free of charge.
“Japan adopted different rates for its ETC system and manual toll collection systems, which helped raise ETC usage rates to 80 percent,” Lang said. “There are still 5 million cars in Taiwan that have yet to install OBUs. Installing them would cost us NT$6 billion [US$187.1 million] if we were to give away the OBUs. We cannot possibly afford that, nor does it fulfill the spirit of a BOT contract.”
The price of an OBU is NT$1,199 per unit.
When the ETC system was introduced in 2006, the government and FETC worked out a deal that offered OBUs for a year at NT$680 per unit.
Those using OBUs more than 100 times within two years could get a full refund. After the deal, the company went back to charging full price and introduced promotional deals such as free OBUs or discounts.
The contract between FETC and the National Freeway Bureau required FETC to raise the usage rate to an average of 45 percent by June this year.
The average usage rate of OBUs is now between 38 percent and 39 percent.