Toll collection is the process of receiving a fee or charge that is associated with the use of a good or service. The term is usually applied to the collection of toll fees on roads and bridges where a charge is incurred for use of those facilities. Tolls are also collected in exchange for use in some telecommunications services, although this has begun to change in recent years.
In some situations, the process of toll collection is a manual one. This is often the case with toll roads and bridges. An individual designated as a toll collector is positioned at a strategic point where it is possible to collect the fee or charge from anyone who wishes to cross the bridge or continue along the road. The collector is normally housed in a tollbooth that is situated at the entryway of the bridge or the beginning of the toll road.
At one time, the process of toll collection along roads and bridges did not involve much in the way of equipment. The collector would receive the fee by hand, make change if necessary, then lift a bar blocking the way so the paid customer could proceed. Over time, this process became more mechanized, allowing the collector to receive the fee, then press a button to activate a hydraulic lift that removed the barrier. Today, there are examples of toll bridges and highways that function with the use of a fully automated system. When this is the case, computer-driven equipment automatically records the transaction and triggers a motor that moves the barrier clear, allowing the paid customer to pass.
Even when the system is fully automated, a collector is still usually present. The collector has the ability to make change and to answer questions from motorists passing through the toll portal. He or she can also take appropriate action if someone attempts to pass without paying the required toll.
With telecommunication services, toll collection was a process that involved applying a toll charge to the customer’s bill. This normally occurred when the customer was attempting to place a call outside the jurisdiction of the local exchange. Payphone systems required the customer to deposit coins into the system in order to pay the toll charges on a long distance call. With the advent of wider calling areas and numerous plans that do not impose a toll for calling outside the local area, relatively few phone customers have to pay toll charges today, even when using land lines.
Toll collection has normally been a means of generating more income for the owner of the good or service. In the case of toll roads, the toll cost often allows states and local jurisdictions to collect revenues that can be used to fund bridge and road repairs, as well as support other services offered by the local or state government.