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Tolling Points

Why Tolling Analysts Are Embracing Automation

By: 
Nina Lews, Atkins N.A.

Following last week’s IBTTA’s Technology Summit, Nina Lewis, Tolls Analyst with Atkins writes a guest blog on automation in tolling.

Tolling analysts dig through vast amounts of data to find proverbial needles in haystacks when they are trying to identify system issues and audit tolling systems. The very nature of it is time consuming. However, automation is completely transforming how analysts access and perform audits. Tasks that were once repetitive, time consuming and susceptible to human error are now completed faster and with better accuracy. Automation is making it possible for analysts to find the needles, quickly and easily—because more can be done with fewer resources.

Tolls analysts are responsible for finding system issues, auditing, tracking historical data and analyzing trends with the goal of preventing revenue loss. Multiple systems and subsystems that require daily checks make the challenge even more complex. Imagine a single analyst trying to identify issues on a twenty-mile, multi-lane toll road while analyzing system performance with tolling equipment potentially failing. The challenge is twofold: finding the issue and finding it quickly to prevent system leakage or revenue loss.  

The key to successful automation is breaking tasks into smaller segments that fall into one of two categories: manual or analytical. Manual tasks may include copying and pasting data, or downloading email attachments to specific folders, while analytical tasks are far more complex and benefit the most from automation. These tasks may involve predefining thresholds for measurable components on the toll road, such as transponder reads or total transaction counts. Analysts define thresholds using a combination of statistics, historical data, requirements and their own experience and judgment. Once the tolls analyst identifies the analytical tasks, they order them to run sequentially in a workflow to produce system or transactional data outputs, which identify the data points that fall out of a threshold. This alerts the analyst to investigate potential issues and quickly notify the vendor. In the past, analysts performed audits by checking each transaction in a sample set for accuracy. Today, an automated process flags which transactions in a sample set are potential failures, so an analyst only needs to check the flagged transactions.

Because analysts are also responsible for making sure equipment is functioning properly and determining how well toll roads operate, it’s critical to ensure vendors comply with standards and specifications. Compliance can be summarized using scorecards, a graded system based on set requirements, which provide a great deal of information using key performance indicators (KPIs) or quantifiable measurements for system components.

The data used to calculate KPIs, such as automated reports, system data outputs and audit results, is enormous. Before automation, compiling a month’s worth of data for an entire toll road was laborious and tedious—and creating a monthly scorecard could take hours. Now, data from automated outputs create a scorecard in minutes. Analysts can also easily modify KPIs because of the flexibility provided through automation. In fact, clients can introduce a new system measurement they’d like to see performed with the “on-demand” feature of automation. All of this can be done with little effort and quick turnaround time.

Automation has become standard in many industries, and the benefits are proving invaluable. The quicker an analyst can identify an issue, the faster it can be resolved, thereby preventing leakage and reducing costs associated with system failures. As tolling continues to grow, automation will become essential. This is just the beginning, as future automation processes will include predictive analytics and software programs that can learn processes without human intervention. Tolling agencies will benefit from automated processes, developing confidence in knowing that the tolling system is running more smoothly and efficiently.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 - 08:30

1 Comments

Great article, Nina! I agree that automation can improve accuracy as well as reduce costs. We're in the LPR business and was shocked when we were engaging with a client in India. We learned that a US-based toll firm has outsourced over to India to manually review license plates... and that the firm in India was using our software to process those plates! So we have here a double-outsourced environment: US -> India -> US.