SmartBrief recently spoke with Pat Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, about the challenges and successes of 2021 and the future of the tolling industry.
This year was one of great recovery for the tolling and transportation industry after all of the challenges that 2020 brought. What stands out as the biggest moment for you in 2021?
This year was about continuity and momentum. Overall, we have had a number of significant moments rather than one big moment. We held our first in-person meeting in almost two years, our annual meeting in October in Anaheim. The IBTTA Board of Directors also completed and adopted a new strategic plan, which takes a fresh look at our direction and rededicates the association to what is most important for us to accomplish over the next three years. Furthermore, connection and engagement of so many individuals and groups across various formats really moved our work forward.
The theme of this year’s president, Mark Compton, was “Leading Through Disruption,” an appropriate theme considering everything the industry has experienced with the pandemic. What stands out for me this year is the passion and dedication of our members to continue making connections and improving the state of the practice of tolling. You could see and feel this passion not only in those who are most active, like our board and committees, but also in individuals who joined us for only one meeting or webinar. Everyone in our industry worked very hard to lead through disruption and stay connected with their colleagues and customers.
Technology has played a huge role in the tolling industry’s ability to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and deliver a better experience to customers. How do you expect technology to affect the industry in 2022 and beyond?
The members of IBTTA’s Emerging Technologies Committee have been on the front lines of examining and implementing technologies that are already here and new technologies that are on the way. With working groups on big data, blockchain, connected and automated vehicles, innovation and tolling and customer management, we are constantly striving to make our facilities, processes and customer experiences more safe, secure, efficient, cost-effective and friendly to use. At the same time, our members are striving to partner with firms and sectors of the economy that perhaps have not traditionally been part of our industry but that have the technology, know-how and expertise that can help us operate in smarter ways that enhance equity, resilience and sustainability.
In particular, many IBTTA SmartBrief readers cited GPS and blockchain technologies as innovations that can benefit the tolling industry. How do you see these technologies being used to benefit organizations and customers?
GPS is already being used in our industry, and one of the primary examples is the heavy vehicle tolling system in Germany operated by TollCollect. We will see additional applications in the years to come. And while I am not an expert on blockchain, we have engaged the experts in several IBTTA meetings and webinars to help spread the word about how blockchain can promote more secure and transparent transactions and solve some of the challenges of interoperability.
It seems that IBTTA has struck a nice balance of in-person and virtual events, with things like the weekly Café IBTTA program and the return to in-person conventions in 2021. What events can IBTTA members look forward to in 2022?
Across all our events in 2022, no matter the format, we are eager to incorporate the theme of IBTTA’s incoming president, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. She is focused on resilience, leadership and opportunity — which you will see woven into many topics and sessions.
For 2022, we are ramping up the number of in-person events we offer and scaling back some of our virtual events — all while staying dedicated to high-quality engagement and discussions. Some of the larger events that will be coming back in person are our Technology Summit in March, Road Usage Charging and Finance Conference in May, Maintenance, Engineering & Roadway Operations Workshop in June, the 90th Annual Meeting & Exhibition in September, and the Global Tolling Summit in October.
For our virtual events, I will continue to host the Café IBTTA webinar every Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET. We will also offer an array of other webinars hosted by our platinum sponsors, Women in Tolling, Young Professionals and other constituent groups. We hope to see you at many of our events next year!