"Manual toll collection way too expensive" - NJ Pike chairman Simpson

April 22, 2011
By Peter Samuel

$670m in electronic toll revenue costs some $53m/year to collect, while it is costing $100m to collect some $290 in cash tolls, according to figures provided by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority chairman and state transportation commissioner James Simpson in testimony at the state legislature in Trenton, Thursday.

"Manual toll collection is simply way too expensive. In the future, all electronic tolling technology, which is being implemented by tolling agencies around the country, will one day be implemented on the Authority's roadways thereby replacing all of our toll collectors," Simpson said.

Meanwhile, he said, the Turnpike has a fiduciary duty to customers, investors and citizens to explore whether significant savings can be made by subcontracting cash toll collection services.

The current top salary range for a full time Turnpike toll collector is $65,760 to $64,560 on the Garden State Parkway.  Over 90% of toll collectors are at the top of range.  With pensions and other benefits the average cost of a full-time toll collector is $100,000/year, Simpson said.

The Turnpike has 293 fulltime and 370 parttime toll collectors staffing 134 cash toll lanes, and the Garden State Parkway 160 fulltime and 16 parttime toll collectors in some 34 staffed lanes.

Average toll collector costs $100k/year all-up

This NJTA toll collectors are unusually expensive. Their costs compare with toll collector salaries in the region between $35,000 to $52,000, with a midpoint $44,000, according to a NJTA survey.

Union work rules and paid leave also add to costs, Simpson said.

With flexibility to deploy labor efficiently the Turnpike Authority would need about a hundred fewer toll collectors on the 168 staffed lanes.

"To properly staff 168 manned Turnpike cash lanes, the agency - without arcane work rules like mandating that there must be 2 toll collectors at every Turnpike interchange at all times - could more efficiently run the operation with over 100 fewer toll collectors.  Most toll collectors have 5 weeks of paid vacation time.  The union contracts provide for more paid holidays than State workers.  The Turnpike toll collectors do not have an attendance policy that would allow the Authority to discipline toll collectors with poor attendance records.  All of these items contribute to driving up the cost of manual toll collection because additional personnel are needed to provide coverage when toll collectors are absent."

Rich benefits

Toll collectors receive benefits such as:

-  bonus pay for working holidays

- separation bonus payments

- cash-in of unused vacation and sick time

- shift differential payments when taking a sick or vacation day

Simpson: "These items should be removed from union contracts. The removal of these excessively generous benefits will not only create better public employment practices but also will save the Authority millions of dollars."

"While we feel a responsibility to our work force, we recognize a higher commitment to our toll paying customers, investors, and the public at large to ensure that the Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway continue to be premier roadways which contributes positively to the economy and the wellbeing of our state."

Union law suit dismissed by court

A federal judge today dismissed a union law suit asking for an injunction to prevent the Turnpike Authority from outsourcing cash toll collection.

Unions say offered Turnpike Authority big concessions to call off outsourcing

Meanwhile unions for both the Turnpike and the Parkway say they have offered concessions worth tens of millions of dollars if the Turnpike Authority will abandon plans to privatize toll collection. The matter will be considered by the board of directors of the Turnpike Authority next Tuesday.

TOLLROADSnews 2011-04-22


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