With the volume of traffic having grown substantially over the years, toll plazas are a bottleneck along the highways. To eliminate this issue, PLUS and other highway concessionaires are working towards implementing a Multi-Lane Free Flow (MLFF) system. With this system, toll booths won’t be needed any longer as all payments will be totally electronic.
Our highway Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) process started off with a tollcard manually swiped on a reader, progressing to a SmartTAG which uses an infrared beam to transmit the card information to a receiver over the lane. In both cases, the vehicle has to slow down considerably which caused traffic to build up at toll plazas.
The future is RFID – Radio Frequency IDdentification – using a tiny tag stuck on the headlight or windscreen which send a radio signal to a receiver to execute ETC. This allows quicker communication that will speed up the flow of traffic through the toll plaza.
RFID has been available for almost two years now and with PLUS – the largest highway concessionaire – having also adopted the system for its toll plazas this year, its acceptance and usage by motorists has been steadily increasing.
Positive response to pilot run
On July 22, PLUS began a pilot run of accepting ETC by RFID on a closed-toll highway system (this system charges by distance travelled) in the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia. All 9 toll plazas from Hutan Kampung all the way to Sungai Dua in the states of Penang and Kedah have lanes dedicated for RFID. It’s clear that the benefits of RFID have appealed to motorists as the penetration has increased from 2.3% two weeks ago to 10% today.
“It is encouraging to see the positive take up of the RFID with a short period of 14 days. I am confident that this will increase as more will see the multiple benefits of this payment solution. The most compelling reason for RFID is that the technology itself propagates physical distancing as compared to the existing card. Once it is linked to your e-wallet, it reduces the probability of being stuck in the toll lane because of insufficient balance and need to physically reload and risk transmission of the coronavirus,” said Datuk Azman Ismail, Managing Director of PLUS.
“We are grateful for the Malaysia Highway Authority’s endorsement of this public pilot. The support by our highway regulator enabling PLUS to proceed with the first 9 designated closed toll plazas namely Hutan Kampung, Alor Setar Utara, Alor Setar Selatan, Pendang, Gurun, Sungai Petani Utara, Sungai Petani Selatan, Bertam and Sungai Dua, is a testament of the promise that the other remaining closed toll highways will be primed for RFID very soon,” Datuk Azman added.
Mindset shift necessary
PLUS, however, recognises that to embrace the RFID technology will require a level of mindset shift. For one thing, motorists will have to make use of the Touch’NGo eWallet which means they must have a smartphone or tablet (which can connect to the internet). Data from the RFID tag is linked to the Touch‘NGo eWallet and reloading can therefore be done online. This is more convenient than having to look for a reload kiosk or outlet to top-up the balance.
Eligible motorists can apply for the PENJANA economic package offered by the government where RM50 reloads will be transferred into successful applicants’ eWallets. However, this benefit does not apply to SmartTAG and Touch‘NGo card.
ETC is still accepted by Touch‘NGo cards and SmartTAGs at all PLUS toll plazas. However, at smaller toll plazas with limited lanes, SmartTag lanes were replaced with dedicated RFID lanes, but the card can still be used at the Touch‘NGo lanes. This will also apply with nationwide roll-out of RFID soon.