Like many other infrastructure sectors, the tolling industry has undergone significant change over the past two decades. Today, everything from the identification of a user driving on a facility to back-office systems is powered by technology and our survey suggests that investments in technology are only going to increase. Our results show that one of the best ways to drive continued efficiency gains is through technology enablement.
Our survey finds that 91 percent of respondents use some form of electronic toll collection in their operations.
In part, the shift seems to reflect societal demand. The reality is that road users in parts of North America and Europe have largely gone ‘cashless’ and therefore demand electronic options for paying tolls. At the same time, both users and owners recognize that electronic toll collection can significantly improve the through put of the facility itself which, in turn, results in a better level of service for users without the need for large capital investment.
The availability of new technologies has also facilitated change as tolling agencies gain increased experience and comfort with new approaches. Whereas in the early 2000’s, there were only a handful of ORT facilities in operation around the world, today 43 percent of respondents say they provide an ORT option on some or all lanes of their facilities.
When asked what steps they have taken to enhance their toll collection operations over the past decade, the vast majority of respondents pointed to some form of technology enhancements. More than three-quarters said they had adopted more advanced technologies as soon as they were fully proven.
At the same time, our survey suggests that tolling organizations have been increasing their investment into technology. More than half (53 percent) said that they had upgraded their tolling system within the last five years and a further 18 percent said they are constantly upgrading their equipment and systems.
Yet given that 56 percent of respondents reported that their tolling systems were more than five years old and 82 percent said they anticipated an equipment life-cycle of 10 years or less, it seems clear that the door is open for further automation and deeper adoption of electronic modes of toll collection.
In fact, of the 60 percent of respondents who said they would be making a major capital improvement over the next fiscal year, almost half said they would channel those investments into upgrading the tolling system.
Looking ahead, many believe that new technological advances will continue to deliver potential improvements. More than a quarter of respondents said they expected to see a positive impact from the introduction of toll collection systems based on global positioning (such as GPS or Glonass); a further 23 percent said they expected the adoption of such a system to result in cost reductions for the sector.
At the same time, our survey suggests that many are starting to leverage a wide range of technologies (such as video tollingwith Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or the use of smart phone applications) to help overcome other challenges. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they had invested in technology to help improve their Violation Enforcement System (VES) – largely through CCTV or OCR solutions – while 64 percent pointed to technologies aimed at enhancing interoperability between and among systems.