Toll collector numbers in decline - Ohio lays off 22
By Peter Samuel
Toll collector jobs have been in decline for several years. New tollroads almost never have cash collection, and the established ones are cutting back or ending cash collection. The Ohio Turnpike is the latest to announce layoffs of toll collectors - 15 fulltimers out of 235, and seven out of 226 part-timers are to go.
Immediate reason for the layoffs is the conversion of four side toll plazas to unstaffed status with a combination of electronic toll transponders (E-ZPass) and Automatic Toll Payment Machines which accept the toll ticket, indicate the toll payable and accept payment with bills, coins or bank cards.
Motorists having trouble can press a button to speak to a remote customer support staffer.
Transponders now account for just over half of Ohio toll transactions. The Ohio Turnpike was the last major toll authority in the US to get electronic tolling in the fall of 2009, so the Ohio uptake is still below most others - in the 60 to 80 percent range. But it has been growing rapidly.
The Automatic Toll Payment machines started in 2009 and at first were used in lanes with toll booths, allowing them to be unstaffed at times of light traffic - especially the midnight shift.
Exit 216 Lordstown East was the first to go unstaffed.
Now going fully automated are Exit25 Archbold, Exit 39 Delta, Exit 135 Vermilion, and Exit 215 Lordstown West.
That will mean five side plazas out of 29 will be fully automated.
Toll collectors cost around $70k to $80k/year including benefits, so the Turnpike saves about $1.5m with the layoffs. They are members of the Teamsters Union.
Governor John Kasich who took office at the beginning of the year, favors privatizing operations of the Turnpike in a longterm concession under a lease to an investor group, but doesn't yet have legislative support.
Downsizing the staff is unconnected to such moves, the present management says. They are simply responding to the reduced need for staff from increased motorist use of automatic payment methods, and the most cost-effective method of collecting tolls.
The Ohio Turnpike is entirely trip based with entry recorded with issue of a ticket or a transponder read. The toll is computed and paid at a side toll point off the mainline.
The layoffs take effect late July.