Toll Collector

Toll Collector

TollBoothGuy

Brooklyn, NY

Male, 26

I spent just short of five years as a toll collector on the western end of New York State. Ask me anything, but please don't pay me in pennies.

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Last Answer on March 17, 2017

Best Rated

I understand why the booth where cash is handed over needs to be manned by a human, but I can't get my head around the booths at the start of the freeway where a person just hands you the ticket. Why isn't that automated?? Is it a union thing?

Asked by mike over 5 years ago

I knew someone was going to ask this! In our system, there is a vehicle classification system based on both axles on the ground and vehicle height. Cars with nothing in tow pay the least. Trucks with 9 or more axles on the ground pay the most. It is the job of the entry collector to classify each vehicle and print the correct ticket with the right classification on it. Entry collectors get audited much like exit collectors and the total amount of axles that cross the treadle should match the amount on the entry machine. Also, entry collectors have to ensure that oversized vehicles and trucks carrying explosive material are properly permitted. We also turn around any vehicle combinations not adhering to the rules. I have heard that since I left, the process has changed and all vehicles are issued the same 2L ticket (that's a car with nothing in tow) and classified at their exit point. I'm almost certain the end game will be automated entry. Cost efficiency seems to be the name of the game these days.

Have you ever seen a co-worker just absolutely lose his shit mid-shift and explode on a driver or pull a walk-out? Gotta think it's not dissimilar from disgruntled postal workers.

Asked by johnno85 over 5 years ago

I will say this about the people I worked with and are still out there to this day- they exercise incredible restraint. If you ever wonder why collectors aren't very talkative, I suspect this may be the reason. It's one of those jobs that the less you say sometimes, the better. I didn't personally witness anything catastrophic but there was a guy I worked with who flipped off a customer. I remember hearing a story about a guy who freaked out, locked up all his money at a small station and left. Not exactly sure how that one panned out but I think he kept his job for some time after that incident. People have definitely walked out on the job, though. I've heard of people going on their first break and just taking off.

Were there everyday commuters that you'd see over and over and would develop a rapport with?

Asked by Hutcher over 5 years ago

Absolutely. I had the benefit of working in some smaller stations as well as a big plaza and I definitely got to the recognition with some people. My hours were very irregular so it was always hit or miss though. It's funny, after a few encounters you just know how to treat certain people. Like, 'oh this guy, he never says a word.' or 'here comes the lady that always asks how I am!"

Have you ever seen an instance where an oversized vehicle got physically stuck at a toll?

Asked by SevenSevenSeven over 5 years ago

Yes! I always thought the rules were pretty clear for oversized vehicles but when you get drivers from all over the country and Canada, confusion sets in. We'd have to shut down lanes, get our manager out to direct traffic, and get the guy out of there as quickly as we could. We always had to be on the lookout for overheight vehicles as well because overpasses and vehicles over 13'6" didn't go so well together on our road.

Do you get alerted by police bulletins to look out for criminal suspects on the run, and have you ever spotted anyone?

Asked by h99mer over 5 years ago

We did. Most common bulletins were vehicle descriptions. A few years back, a man named Bucky Phillips escaped a correctional facility upstate and while on the run, shot a state police officer in the middle of the state. He had relatives in the area that I worked so were on the lookout for him and any car that had been tied to him. State police officers were being called in from all across the state as it turned into an all-out manhunt. Then he shot (and killed one) two more state troopers and things got even more intense. For a few days, they doubled up staffing at our smaller stations so no one would be alone at any time. No one on our highway spotted him though, and he was apprehended once a small army descended upon him in the woods. I was working the night he was caught and a convoy of police vehicles (one of which carried him) came through our plaza, taking him back towards Buffalo. I tried to keep count the cars but they just kept flying though and I couldn't keep up. Definitely one of the more memorable nights out there.

If I end up in an exact change lane but don't have exact change, what should I do?

Asked by frumunda over 5 years ago

I actually can't speak to this directly because we didn't have exact change lanes in my area. I guess the best advice I can give is to not end up there! I suppose if the lane is unmanned and has a bucket or something like that you might just have to try and back up out of that lane, much to the dismay of everyone behind you. If there is a person staffing that line, I'm almost certain they will have some sort of change. Still, I wouldn't recommend trying to find out.

Do you think there will be a time where all tolls are automated?

Asked by Knux23 over 5 years ago

As long as there is cash, there will be tolls manned by humans. I think you'll see a continued push to inconvenience cash payers in the form of pulling off the main road to pay, and higher cash prices but there are just too many people from too many places to be integrated in one system. It's taken years for states to cross-honor other state tags under the EZ-Pass system, and that system will never serve 100% of the population.