Drivers around the nation will be able to start installing eTags on their vehicles without paying any additional charge on Tuesday, the National Freeway Bureau announced yesterday.
Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC), the contractor administering the freeway electronic toll collection (ETC) system, began introducing eTags last year to increase the usage of the system.
Prior to eTags, drivers were required to purchase an on-board unit (OBU) consisting of a card and cardholder to access ETC lanes. The bureau decided to launch a trial operation of the eTag system in Keelung in September last year, with Keelung residents who installed eTags in their cars receiving a 20 percent discount whenever they drove through the Sijhih (汐止) and Cidu (七堵) toll stations between 4pm and 8pm.
The trial operation succeeded in raising the average ETC usage rate from 38 percent to 77 percent. As a result, the bureau decided to allow drivers nationwide to install eTags.
Bureau chief engineer Wu Mu-fu (吳木富) said drivers could have one free eTag per car. Starting on May 23, drivers using eTags or OBUs to access ETC lanes will enjoy a 10 percent discount on toll fees, as long as they have enough money in their accounts and the transaction is completed.
Until then, OBU users are entitled to a 5 percent discount on toll fees.
Wu said owners of OBUs could continue to use them until the nation starts charging freeway users by distance traveled next year.
Those who want to switch to eTags before then can start doing so on July 31, he said.
Wu said FETC decided to set a later date for the switch from OBUs to eTags because the company would be busy serving customers who need to have eTags installed in their cars.
“Once the switch is complete, the amount of money drivers paid to purchase an OBU will be transferred into their ETC account,” Wu said.
FETC spokesperson Josephine Chou (周世惠) said there were about 1.21 million OBU users.
Chou said that those who want an eTag could go to more than 10,000 service outlets across the nation starting on Tuesday, including gas stations, car dealers and convenience stores. To activate the system, drivers need to have at least NT$400 in their account.
FETC is an affiliate of Far Eastern Group. Earlier this week, Far Eastern Group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) announced the group would suspend all investment plans in Taiwan following a dispute involving Sogo Department Store.
Chou said the announcement would not affect the operation of the ETC.
“The investment was made to serve the public,” Chou said. “We will continue to offer the service, and all the necessary funds are in place.”