The adoption of electronic toll collection (ETC) systems is expected to grow in APAC, the U.S. and Europe.Electronic toll collection (ETC) systems have transformed the way toll is collected on highways around the world. As its benefits become more apparent to various transportation agencies, adoption of smart toll collection and ETC systems is growing globally.
José Luis Añonuevo, GM of Traffic Management Systems Operations at Indra highlighted that developing countries are demanding more services when it comes to toll management, and users are wanting a more digitized experience. As a result, Indra believes the tolls sector will “evolve through digitalization and innovation.”
From a governmental perspective, deploying a smart toll collection system can serve multiple policy purposes, according to Benoît Rossi, Director of Business Development and Marketing for EMEA at Emovis. These purposes can range from financing new and maintenance of infrastructure construction, to curbing traffic congestion, to internalizing externalities (e.g., noise, pollution, etc.), to inducing modal shift behaviors such as encouraging high occupancy vehicles or favoring electrical vehicles (i.e., toll exempted), he explained.
Justin Hamilton, Product Manager at Kapsch TrafficCom pointed to the use of tolling as a means to fund the building of new and maintenance of existing road infrastructure as a growing trend in all regions around the world.
The fastest growing region is the U.S., as tolling is quite limited compared to other regions such as Europe — nearly 75 percent of EU motorways are tolled, according to Rossi. “In the U.S., we see more and more states turning to tolling as a way to finance the upkeep of their road maintenance and compensate the sharp decline of gas-tax revenues,” he said.
Rossi explained how certain traffic lanes are dynamically tolled in the U.S., meaning toll prices vary based on traffic density. The higher the traffic density, the higher the tolls.
“This is almost like an auction-based system,” Rossi said. “At the same time, some transport authorities are directly reassigning these toll revenues to improve the local public transport. In other words, the revenues generated from a specific geographical area is re-injected in that local area, so the community can perceive the benefits of tolling in a very tangible manner.”
Hamilton noted that there has been some movement toward charging heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in the U.S., notably in the state of Rhode Island, which began collecting tolls from HGVs in 2018. At the same time, he added that the U.S. is also in the middle of a nationwide transition from manual to electronic tolling across bridges, tunnels and turnpikes. “The US government has also sought to mandate greater interoperability between hitherto competing technology (RFID) protocols,” he said.
In Europe, new and existing tolls are now focused predominantly on distance-based charging for HGVs. Much of the focus is geared toward ensuring foreign trucks, as well as other vehicles, pay their fair share for use of the roads, according to Hamilton. "Tolling represents a way to raise the required sums in a way which charges only the users of the infrastructure,” he said.
The market in Asia has seen significant growth, particularly in China and India. With such massive road networks, electronic tolls are also being used to help curb road congestion, as well as to fund new and existing projects. For example, India has committed to installing tolls on all new highways and major roads. Some countries in Asia have also deployed additional systems such as natural disaster early warning systems through its smart tolling network.
Ultimately, the type of electronic toll system deployed, if deployed at all, depends on the regulations, budget and needs of individual countries. Where as many countries view smart electronic tolls as beneficial, others will see it with more reluctance. In time, however, the advantages of such a system may come to outweigh the reservations.