As tolling and toll facilities become a more popular transportation infrastructure improvement choice for state agencies and an investment opportunity for private entities, there are more options for customer interaction than ever before. Differing business rules, tolling systems, tolling facilities, hours of operation, pricing models, back office payment options, and numerous system account types have resulted in the creation of a diverse number of choices agencies are offering to attract and retain customers.

While this is certainly a positive from the end user’s perspective, it has presented many complications for agencies.

For example:

  • Inflated toll system costs
  • Augmented costs for infrastructure development
  • Increased the amount of storage agencies must plan for to account for an increase in “big data”
  • Amplified the need for more tools and personnel to process and analyze data
  • Convoluted contract performance metrics vendors must meet

Overall, these offerings have resulted in more complicated, and certainly more expensive, toll operations for agencies to maintain.

But, it’s not all bad for agencies!

After all, if these additional options attract more users, it should equate to increased revenues. However, to truly maximize revenues, agencies must continually work to ferret out operational efficiencies to cut costs and minimize revenue leakage. With staff members’ hands full managing a complex toll operation, and maintaining day-to-day business, what’s an agency to do?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy way to securely coordinate with other agencies in the industry, across the nation, to share more sensitive operational data and/or lessons learned on successful implementations of projects that result in operational efficiencies?

Granted, there are organizations and forums that collect industry data, but the information they disseminate is typically picked through, carefully crafted and often less useful to assist in implementing operational efficiencies. Access to impactful data that can be studied and acted upon is currently much more difficult to attain.

No matter how long you’ve been in the toll industry, you’ve probably seen the proficiency with which our industry shares information on the ever-changing technologies agencies are employing.

However, if you were to ask most agencies for details on their operational costs or details, like rate of return on bill pay for example, you might not receive a solid answer. And, there are very real concerns toll operators have in releasing more sensitive information to internal, and especially external, entities.

Nonetheless, toll agencies are missing an opportunity to share potentially impactful and actionable information with industry colleagues. After all, agencies are largely trying to accomplish the same three goals:

  • Increase revenues
  • Decrease costs
  • Provide a safer, more efficient travel experience for their customers

Perhaps the industry would benefit itself by looking for ways to grant toll agencies access to secure avenues to share and review data with their industry colleagues without airing all of their “dirty laundry” in the process?

For example, if toll agency X made a change to their operation that increased their rate of return on billed transactions, then there are likely other agencies in the country that would benefit from making similar changes.

Or perhaps agencies might benefit from access to a basic, online cost tool that they could anonymously plug their data into to compare their cost per transaction with other toll operators in the country.

There are definitely hurdles to overcome, and there is certainly no silver bullet fix, but the possibilities are endless and attainable.

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Mark Hicks

Mark Hicks

Senior Tolls Technology Specialist at RS&H, Inc.

As a Senior Tolls Technology Specialist, Mark is an expert in the toll industry with experience in toll program administration, back office operations management, and toll system development.

Contact Mark: Mark.Hicks@rsandh.com

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