In the late 1990s, there were daily queues of disgruntled road users who waited at tollbooths for tolls to be collected manually. The manual collection system was also laden with many security flaws because of the large sums of cash involved, making it highly culpable to pilferages and thefts.
To address these issues, the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system was introduced to ease traffic congestion and it was proven to be one of the most successful Intelligent Transport System (ITS) applications. This contact-less smart card system was first implemented for the Penang Bridge in 1995, using a prepaid card. This system also replaced the pre-printed discount voucher.
However, there were teething problems when the ETC was first implemented. Some highway operators used a 2.45 Ghz microwave one-piece tag while others used a 5.8 Ghz microwave one-piece tag. As such, there was no uniformity, causing inconvenience to road users, as they needed to invest in more than one tag. Furthermore, the electronic cards or tags would only worked on limited highways owned by the same concessionaire only.
After much deliberation and research, the Government concluded that all highways should have a single electronic toll collection system and as a result – the single ETC system – known as the Touch ‘n Go and SmartTAG was introduced in 2004. Ever since its implementation, the Touch ‘n Go ETC system has proven to ease congestion significantly and reduce cost for both highway operators and users alike.
In order to ensure maximum operational uptime and minimize breakdown incidence of Touch ‘n Go devices at the toll lanes, the highway operators are actively engaging their System Integrator to provide corrective as well as preventive maintenance periodically.
Currently, there are also plans in the pipeline to implement the Multi-Lane Free-Flow (MLFF) tolling system in Malaysia which relies solely on electronic payment without the toll plaza and barrier. This would be a significant enhancement to the current SmartTAG or dedicated Touch ‘n Go lane system. This type of solution is already being implemented in countries such as Australia, USA, Chile and Canada. The future implementation of MLFF will definitely enhance mobility for road users and further increase the efficiency of our tolling system.