BY MYLA IGLESIAS and NOEL TALACAY
The country’s two giant toll operators, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), have signed an agreement to conduct tests for toll interoperability that will allow the use of their respective radio frequency identification (RFID) stickers at different expressways.
SMC-TPLEX Corp. as well as MPTC and its unit NLEX Corp. signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to jointly test the use of AutoSweep and EasyTrip RFID cashless toll payments when passing through SMC’s Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) and MPTC’s North Luzon and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and to determine their read rate percentage.
The test is part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) toll interoperability project which started in 2017 and has three phases. Phase one involves the implementation of 100 percent cashless and contactless toll payment.
The MOA, which is part of the second phase, involves the use of two RFID wallets, which will make a single RFID sticker readable by sensors at different toll roads. Each wallet will contain the “load” for payments at specific toll plazas.
The third phase will involve the use of just one RFID sticker for all toll expressways and maintain only one wallet for toll payments.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade thanked toll operators and concessionaires for their willingness to work together. “We are grateful to our private partners who have demonstrated their unparalleled support in this project. We need their assistance to fast-track the necessary measures to fully implement toll interoperability,” Tugade said.
Under the MOA, a steering committee will be created to implement and monitor the parties’ compliance with the agreement.
During the first phase an AutoSweep RFID sticker will be activated using an EasyTrip account, and an EasyTrip RFID sticker will be activated using an AutoSweep account. The test will involve 45 vehicles, composed equally of the different vehicle classifications.
The interoperability testing will be conducted for 14 consecutive days. After the test, the participants will submit their test transaction reports and dashcam video recordings to the steering committee for validation and assessment.
The steering committee will have five days, from the complete submission of the data collected, to determine the read rate percentage or the system’s performance indicator when comparing RFID infrastructure.
To date, around 80 percent of motorists have already installed RFID stickers on their vehicles.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian yesterday called for the resignation of Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) executive director Abraham Sales for his failure to solve the glitches and traffic jams brought about by the implementation of the government’s cashless toll transaction policy.
Gatchalian said the TRB head is supposed to be in-charge of the day-to-day activities of the board, and primarily crafts policies to prevent problems in the country’s tollways.
“It is the ED (executive director) who will have full knowledge and control of the situation.
He is placed there to prevent problems from happening and hold operators to account,” he said, noting, among others that the traffic jams created in expressways brought about by a number of problems in the RFID system has not been solved despite several complaints from motorists.
“This problem has been going on for weeks now and the regulator (TRB) is doing nothing.
The problem has worsened especially now that motorists are obliged to install RFIDs (for cashless payments). The people of Valenzuela City are fed up with their defective RFID readers,” he added.
He said it is about time that the people have a more efficient TRB head.
“We should get a more aggressive executive director because up to now we have not heard from him and traffic is monstrous at the North Luzon Expressway,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian hit the toll operators for failing to check malfunctioning RFID sensors in toll plazas prior to the implementation of the cashless transaction last December 1 which have caused heavy traffic along expressways in the past few days.
He also took note of reports of defective RFID sensors such as the case of those traversing the interchange in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) leading to Valenzuela City.
“It’s all over the news that snags in the installation of RFID stickers prior to and especially on the day of the start of the cashless toll collection resulted in the high volume of cars along the expressways. This has been happening for several days now. Had there been any clear sign or action from the concerned parties in resolving this monstrous traffic jam? None,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian said that in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) signed by the TRB board last October 5 on DOTr Order No. 2020-12 requiring cashless or contactless transactions for all vehicles travelling on toll expressways, it says that toll operators are required to “ensure at all times the efficient operation and maintenance of the toll collection facility.”
Furthermore, he said the TRB obligated the toll road companies to act on motorists’ complaints within three business days from the time of referral or filing of the complaint, and failure to do so without any justifiable reason shall automatically result in the resolution of the issue in the motorists’ favor.
The IRR also provides for the imposition of a penalty against toll road companies for non-compliance with the policy of the TRB. – With Raymond Africa