Soon, Fastags, the government issued smartcards used for paying toll on highways, can also be used to buy fuel. IDFC First Bank has become the first one to get an approval from the RBI for this.
While a name for the new version of Fastag is yet to be finalised, it is being internally called as — Fastag version 2.0, said a source.
Fuel and toll are usually the top two items that truck drivers spend on during their journey, necessitating carrying cash. But soon, a truck driver can use Fastag to not only pay for tolls on highways, but also to refuel.
This is one of the many steps the government is taking to nudge highway users to adopt cashless transactions.
From December 1, in toll plazas, all lanes except one must accept electronic payments.
In total, 22 banks issue Fastags, with ICICI, SBI and PayTM Bank accounting for a major chunk. The Road Ministry, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL) in which the NHAI, several road developers and banks have an equity stake, have been working towards making Fastags more widely acceptable.
They are trying to make Fastags the common instrument of payment in State and district highways for various transactions, including parking payments.
There are some 450 toll plazas on national highways, on which the largest chunk or 40 per cent of the total road cargo moves. So, a vehicle, during its journey, may have to pay toll or road user fee at booths located on highway or road stretches managed by other agencies such as State, city or municipal administrations.
While the exact data on the number of booths where States or local governments collect tolls are difficult to come by, rough government estimates peg their number at around 500. To the local agencies, the NHAI has offered to share half the capital cost required to set up a toll booth if they allow the use of Fastag.
Pact with States - The IHMCL has already tied up with the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra, among others, to increase the adoption of Fastag among highway users. There has also been a proposal to integrate Fastag with the GST Network, and make it a unique identity for vehicles.
That said, the Highway Ministry recently noted that the adoption of Fastags has not been to the extent it had desired. Challenges in faster adoption of Fastag include lack of network availability, lack of point of sales and delayed payments post transactions.