February 12, 2019
Where Are We Going? Trends in Tolling for Commercial Fleets
By Nick Crounse, Director of Strategic Communications, Bestpass
Most trucking industry professionals and infrastructure experts agree that tolling isn’t going anywhere and will have an ongoing impact on commercial fleet operations across the country. Tolls will continue to play a prominent role in the future of transportation and logistics, especially as the federal government, states and other municipalities look for reliable funding options to create new transportation options or to improve or replace existing infrastructure.
While tolling authorities and other government agencies are working to achieve interoperability between the various tolling systems around the country, there are too few people tackling the issues that most directly impact the trucking industry. The complexity of tolling from a nationwide or even regional perspective is formidable. For example, based on recent toll rates, it costs a five-axle truck $31.50 to cross Kansas, and it costs that same truck $126.85 to cross New York state. A driver working in Kansas can traverse the state several times with $100.00 in his account, but that will not get the driver very far if he has a load to deliver in New York.
This variation in scale from state to state is one of the real challenges for fleet managers and drivers, and it is only one example of what remains to be tackled in terms of tolling, the path to interoperability, and impacts on trucking and other commercial fleets.
Bestpass, along with a few other organizations, has been working specifically on the trucking industry’s unique tolling issues for many years and therefore has a unique perspective on the next phase of trucking and tolling. Total interoperability among tolling systems across the United States and Canada is the most sensible approach to addressing these challenges. While many agree that true interoperability is still a few years away, trucking and tolling has already made great strides in connecting the different systems and reducing costs for both industries.
One of the primary challenges to achieving interoperability is the essential mandate for most tolling authorities: operating their facilities safely and efficiently. This mandate makes sense, but it does not necessarily lead to integration between the many tolling entities. Therefore, tolling today is comprised of many independent systems, based on different technology platforms with a wide variety of operating guidelines and business rules. Pursuing universal access will entail developing flexible and innovative ways to connect the pieces that are already in place, while mitigating added cost or lost local benefits.
An additional barrier to interoperability is the sheer number of independent tolling authorities using a wide variety of technology platforms and operating guidelines. Small toll facilities, some of which are privately owned, may not have the resources to join a national solution. A single-service solution needs to work with the large interoperable facilities while incorporating the independent facilities, and it also need to expand to include seamless service between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Public-private partnerships between the trucking and tolling sectors, as well as partners from other areas, are already beginning to help streamline the processes of paying, collecting and administering toll. This strategy can provide a cost-effective single point of customer service to high-volume users, with guaranteed payment, centralized reporting and a significant decrease in administrative cost. These elements, which are clearly beneficial to commercial fleets, are also attractive to tolling authorities, large and small.
Founded in 2001 by the Trucking Association of New York, Bestpass provides nationwide streamlined toll management services, including consolidated billing, volume discounts, violation processing and a single service compatible with more than 40 toll systems. The company also maintains a lively social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About the author:
Nick Crounse is the director of strategic communications at Bestpass in Albany, N.Y.