Toll Insight spoke with Joe Clavelle, Vice President of Business Development, Service Providers & Partners for Bestpass.
Bestpass provides toll management for commercial fleets of all shapes and sizes. With thousands of customers and hundreds of thousands of toll transponders deployed in the United States and Canada, Bestpass ensures data accuracy, consolidates payments, delivers invaluable industry expertise, and saves its users time and money. Founded in 2001 by truckers for truckers, Bestpass is now a trusted partner on the road and in the back office for customers, tolling authorities, and related organizations.
1. What initially interested you and brought you into the tolling industry? How did that path bring you to Bestpass?
Growing up, I always was fascinated with roads, bridges, and tunnels. I used to build them in my mother’s garden. After spending 20 years with Canada’s largest bank, RBC Royal Bank, which included time in Brazil and Argentina, I saw the private investment and productivity of concessionaires in ports, railways and toll roads from the banking/investment and operational side. In 2006, an RBC Royal Bank customer at the time was International Road Dynamics (IRD). Their Vice President of International Business had moved back to his native Australia, for family reasons, so I made the move to IRD and worked on toll projects in India, China, Colombia, Mexico, the UAE and Africa, as well as weigh-in-motion projects around the world. After three years, I was recruited to Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), which became Xerox and now Conduent, for several years in sales. From there, I spent four years working with Drivewyze to promote GPS/smartphone-based tolling, running pilots in Miami with MDX and in San Diego with the SR 125. In 2013, while at an RFI meeting for the consolidated back office in Florida, I met John Andrews of Bestpass, and after many long and detailed conversations and alignment on the multitude of transponders, accounts, and customer service centers commercial vehicles had to endure, the opportunity came up, and I was proud to come on board with Bestpass.
2. What is Bestpass’ role within the tolling industry?
What does every toll road operator want? To get paid!
Many Bestpass customers are business users of multiple, often not-yet interoperable toll facilities. They, like toll agencies, are trying to operate at a profit and are looking to reduce as many costs as they can. There is a cost for these business users in dealing with multiple agencies, transponders, payment points and customer service centers. The costs are in staff time and money for wages, but also for violation fees, charges, etc. Likewise, toll agencies incur costs in dealing with these often large commercial users who call in to customer service centers that are often set up for passenger vehicle consumers and not very large commercial customers who deal in a much larger volume of transactions, violations and transponders.
This also applies to local vehicles that are part of a large regional or national fleet such as AT&T or FedEx. The vehicles may operate locally, but overall, the company has a national toll problem and footprint of agencies to try to deal with and maintain relationships with. Calling in to numerous geographically diverse customer service centers can be frustrating for both the customer and the toll agency. Issues arise when vehicles are transferred between cost centers, geographic areas or if they are called away for emergencies or disasters.
Bestpass can often bring into play our own interoperable transponder, guaranteed payment, and dedicated customer service, thereby removing those costs from the toll agency and consolidating the transponder, payment and customer service for the toll service provider’s customer base. This has value for both sides – the toll road provider/agency and the toll road user – by removing costs in time and money for both.
3. Which new products / services has Bestpass recently brought to market?
Bestpass always promotes transponders first, as they are the best and most efficient, as well as cost effective, method of tolling for both agency and the customer. We work with a multitude of transponders. Some are local to get local discounts, and some are multi-agency or multi-protocol formats. The company recently released two new transponder options for commercial fleets: Complete Pass Scout, which provides nationwide toll coverage, and Horizon Scout, which optimizes toll coverage for regional fleets.
Unfortunately, the right transponder cannot always be in the right vehicle at the right time. This is especially the case with trailers and rented or leased equipment.
Consequently, violations and pay-by-plate transactions are a large issue for most all-electronic toll agencies. If there are no cash lanes and no interoperable transponder is read, then agencies must deal with the potential cost of manual review of a license plate, cost of a DMV lookup on the plate, violation print and mail costs – and then must deal with the collection costs of trying to get paid for that transaction. There may be no reciprocity between jurisdictions, and in many cases even overall cost of collecting on that violation/plate read by far exceeds the cost of the toll.
Bestpass brings inter-State and Canadian reciprocity and guaranteed payment, which substantially reduces cost, again both for the toll agency and the plate-based customer. Many agencies and regions are trying to work towards interoperability, but there is a cost to interoperability. There are interop fees and merchant fee settlements that must occur to offset the cost of the hub and to compensate the toll agency that owns that customer for their merchant fees incurred to pay a transaction that did not occur on their roadway.
For this reason, Bestpass is working to find ways to have comprehensive plate coverage as a catch-all to remove the need for DMV lookup, violation print and mail, collection costs related to the violation and bring reciprocity across State/Provincial borders.
4. How do you see tolling account management evolving over the next 5-10 years?
In Europe, South America and Mexico, there are multiple toll agencies and concessionaires, and customers have a choice of who they deal with for their transponder, toll service, features and value-added services. Within the United States and Canada, there is still a mindset of owning or trying to own every customer on a toll facility, but that ownership of a customer comes with costs.
Toll agencies are forced to have lane systems, which include transponder readers, license plate cameras and vehicle detection/classification. They are also forced to have to have a back-office system and customer service center. But do toll agencies have to own each customer? There are fixed and variable costs to running a toll facility. As a business, improving or reducing variable costs and the cost of providing service are cornerstones to success.
Working with Bestpass and other third-party toll service providers can remove some of the cost of owning a toll customer and trying to collect from a customer who has used a toll facility, but does not want to have a local account or yet another stand-alone account and password.
Bestpass can provide regional and national interoperability through a number of transponder protocols with license plates as a backup – all with guaranteed payment. We hope to see toll account management evolving to a collaborative and cooperative approach between third parties and toll agencies.
5. How do you see your business adapting to meet those industry needs?
We continue to work with agencies as a partner trying to most efficiently pay our mutual customers’ tolls and work together to reduce the time and cost of violations, leverage reciprocity and enhance interoperability. The E-ZPass Group has a third-party initiative ongoing for discovery of options to improve customer service experience, reduce violations and promote mutually beneficial solutions for a win-win-win that includes the customer, agency and third party service provider. Bestpass is excited to be a part of that conversation and any conversation that improves tolling for providers and commercial users alike.