E-tolls: successive fines are easy to avoid

The number of carriers using the fine alert and low balance warning services offered by the National Toll Payment Services Plc. free of charge is on the rise. These two functions largely contribute to the correct use of on-board units and enable road users to avoid successive fines. In view of the modification of the rules of the imposition of fines for unauthorized road use as of 12 November 2017, their importance is expected to increase.

Since the launch of the HU-GO pay-as-you-go electronic toll system four years ago, based on the experiences of operation and feedback from carriers, the National Toll Payment Services Plc. (NTPS) has been continuously improving the technological solutions employed. Over the past years, the company has introduced various services available free of charge, helping drivers declare road use as easily as possible and in keeping with the rules, as well as protecting them from unwittingly committing offences.

Such services include the fine alert function, available since July 2015. Once activated, when detecting unauthorized road use, the NTPS verification system will immediately send a warning to the users concerned in order to enable them to avoid successive fines. The service is available to road users registered in the HU-GO system, independently of whether they pay the toll by purchasing a route ticket or using an on-board unit. The function is by default inactive, therefore registered users must turn it on in their HU-GO profile. The alert function has been activated in 71.5 per cent of the motor vehicles used by carriers, compared to 60 per cent last year.

The warnings issued by the system may be attributable to several reasons. Such reasonsinclude the use of an erroneous country code, registration number or toll category, but, in the event of on-board unit (OBU) usage, warnings may also be issued if the data of the road use authorization purchased was not registered in the NTPS system within 30 minutes from road use detection. Warnings may also indicate that, at the moment when road use was detected, the OBU used in the vehicle was included in the list of disabled on-board units, and road use authorization had not been granted in any other way (by purchasing a route ticket) before the vehicle entered the toll section.

The alert function enables carriers to avoid successive fines by checking and correcting, following the first warning, the data provided earlier and by topping up their balance if needed. It must be noted, however, that in the event of unauthorized road use the service shall not modify the way fines are imposed.

Another service offered by NTPS free of charge is the low balance warning sent when the critical level determined by the user has been reached. This feature protects road users from letting their balance run too low and thus running out of funds to pay for a toll in progress. If the funds available are not sufficient for paying the toll, the OBU will immediately be included in the list of disabled on-board units, and thus it cannot be used for declaring road use. During the activation of such function, the user can set the limit value for said warning (the minimum amount is HUF 6,000). Road users shall pay attention to determining this limit value carefully, leaving time for themselves for topping up their balance.

Regarding the use of these two functions, it must be noted that the rules of the imposition of fines for unauthorized road use will change as of 12 November 2017. The amended legislative act (government decree No. 410/2007), as a new measure, will take into consideration the time factor of unauthorized road use and determine the amount of the fines based on three time slots. This will enable road users to correct the error committed shortly after the detection of unauthorized road use and thus avoid paying a higher fine.

The government decree has classified the fines into three categories depending on whether further offences were committed within an 8-hour time slot following the first detection of unauthorized road use. On the basis of the above principle, road users may expect moderate, normal or increased fines. This means that the fine alert service offered by NTPS protects road users not only from successive fines but also from increased fines if they correct the committed errors in time.

NTPS controls road use authorization throughout the approximately 6745-km-long toll road network of the Hungarian e-toll system at 110 fixed toll enforcement stations and with 45 mobile data collection vehicles. The fact of unauthorized road use is always established real-time, on the basis of the registration number of the motor vehicle in question. In the event of unauthorized road use, the relevant data is transmitted to the authority imposing the fines, i.e. the police, in a closed system. 

Pursuant to the applicable legislation, neither NTPS nor the competent authority has discretion: fines are compulsorily imposed for all offences. This takes place irrespective of whether the offence is attributable to the carrier or the carrier’s employee using the vehicle, as well as of whether it was an unintentional mistake or an intentional offence.