Common electronic toll transponder makes debut

One of the biggest roadblocks to developing a national electronic toll-collection system may be surmounted soon thanks to the introduction of new transponder technology. Mark IV has developed Ubiquity, a transponder device specifically designed to make coast-to-coast electronic toll collection possible. Not only is Ubiquity designed to function under the various systems used among toll road and bridge

One of the biggest roadblocks to developing a national electronic toll-collection system may be surmounted soon thanks to the introduction of new transponder technology. Mark IV has developed Ubiquity, a transponder device specifically designed to make coast-to-coast electronic toll collection possible.

Not only is Ubiquity designed to function under the various systems used among toll road and bridge authorities nationwide, it also has technical interoperability at all North American locations where truckers may electronically comply with state weight, safety and credential requirements.

Amherst, NY-based Mark IV said that, although toll system technologies differ greatly, there are two dominant systems: The E-ZPass protocol of the Interagency Group used in the Northeast and the Title 21 protocol used throughout California and Colorado.

Martin Capper, president of Mark IV's intelligent vehicle division, said Ubiquity could enable motorists and truckers to operate seamlessly at more than 80% of all North American toll facilities, including all California locations, and should be available for testing this fall.

The development of a common transponder has long been a major goal for the 15 million cars and trucks that use such devices. D. Joseph Fleming, president of Falcon Transport Co., is one trucking executive that has long sought such a device. "I am frustrated by transponders, as are many fleets," he said in a recent speech to Technology & Maintenance Council. "For us, electronic toll transponders have been a great way to save money on highway tolls - but they are increasingly a hassle to use."

Tolls are a big issue for Youngstown, OH-based Falcon. With some 1,000 tractors and 750 dry van and flatbed trailers, Fleming said his company spends upwards of $250,000 a month on highway tolls. Transponders have been touted as the best way to simplify the toll collection process for both truckers and state agencies yet it can be a complex technology issue, he said.

Fleming said he has long hoped to see development of a single transponder that can be used for both electronic toll payment and highway scale bypass, one that is built into the truck so the driver is not inconvenienced in any way. Then, trucking fleets could set up their accounts using the Internet for whatever state agency controls tolls and highway scales in their service territories.

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