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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I've had a lot of rude things done to me over the years. Dirty money, insults, ridiculous amounts of change, etc. But I think the one thing that has stuck with me to this day happened on an overnight shift years ago. Guy pulled up, handed me his ticket and his money in silence. While making his change, he looked up at me and asked 'Is this what you're going to do for the rest of your life?' While I truly don't believe he was asking the question maliciously, it's a loaded question, and something I would never ever ask another human being who's just trying to get through their day.
Full-timers work eight hour shifts. Part-timers work anywhere between 4-8 hours depending on the shift. They also often jump between a few different lanes during their shift. We are provided stools and some of us do sit the whole time, but I never thought they were particularly comfortable so I usually stood for the majority of my shifts.
Usually you don't go more than 2-3 hours without a break so it isn't as big of an issue as people think. However, if it's an emergency and it's not too busy you can usually turn your light red, put a cone in the lane, and run into the building off to the side. If it is busy, someone is usually freed up for a few minutes to give you a spell. However, at some of our smaller stations, there are long stretches covered by a single collector, including the overnight (11p-7a) where I have heard of the bottle method being employed. Pure rumor there, though.
This is when it pays to have sharp eyes. In our booths, we have an intercom that opens us to a dispatcher, state police units, and maintenance. If we can catch a plate number and a description of the vehicle, a unit can be rapidly dispatched if in the area. Regardless of the outcome, we must note as much information as we can on our Tour of Duty, and notify dispatch of the incident. We are audited every shift via money total and axle count so every axle that rolls over the treadles(sp?) in our lanes must be accounted for. Also, I used to hang out of my booth and wave my arms like a crazy person trying to get them to stop.
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In New York we have 'unpaid toll' forms. The collector takes the driver's license, copies down all relevant information of the driver, takes the plate number of the vehicle and returns the license and a bill to the driver with an address to mail payment to within seven days. Additionally, if you're back on the road within that seven day span, you can pay your unpaid toll at the same time that you pay your regular toll. If the driver doesn't have their license on them, we ask them to pull off to the side and we call for a state trooper to come and verify information. It can take a few minutes, and people behind you will be displeased, but it happens and we try to make it as painless as possible.
We weren't given formal training but we would see bulletins issued by the state police highlighting known counterfeit serial numbers. We were also required to take down the license plate of any customer paying with a 50 or 100 dollar bill, along with the corresponding serial number of the bill. So it wasn't necessarily our job to root out counterfeit money, but more to provide the information attached to large bills in case an issue arose at the time of bank deposit. Funny story though- I once took three singles from a guy and threw then down onto the counter in front of me (I never put money into my drawer until the transaction was complete) . Staring back up at me, on an otherwise perfectly legitimate bill was a very presidential looking Santa Claus. Stupidly, I didn't take a picture, but we shared a laugh about it and I gave it back to the guy for a real dollar. I am absolutely certain this one had been passed around for a while so check your bills everybody!
It really does. I think the fact a lot of systems have different vehicle classification systems might have something to do with it. I'm not familiar with the specific technological barriers but I remember a period of time where Illinois drivers would come through our lines with their tags (IPass), which looked pretty much identical to our EZ-Pass tags and they wouldn't work at all. Not sure if getting different systems to talk to each other is as easily remedied as proverbially 'flipping the switch'. Florida is the only state that I've been to that has a radically different system that doesn't seem compatible to the EZ-Pass system. It will be interesting to see if they have to migrate over to EZ-Pass as it has basically cornered the market on automated toll collection here in the US.
I just kept calling the local toll plazas to see if there were openings. I lucked out because there was a civil service test being offered around the time I was inquiring. It contained three sections: vehicle classification, money counting, and totaling up deposit slips. They kept those scores on record and went down the list when it came time to hire. When they ran all the way down the list, they would hire off the street. Sometimes it felt like the only qualification was a warm body. But I suppose other perequisites included 18+, ability to make change without a cash register, customer service experience, etc.
This is a really difficult question for me to answer because honestly, there was very little that I enjoyed about this job and I think that ran over into my work sometimes. I feel that I worked hard, moved traffic as quickly as I could, looked out for my co-workers, and tried to maintain a safe environment for customers and co-workers. But working with people is incredibly exhausting. Especially people that are decidedly NOT happy to see you. I want to tell you I greeted every customer with a smile, that I waved at every child in the backseat, that I took the catcalls from every nook of the car with a good-natured wink. It was hard to hold it together some days but I generally just tried to keep my mouth shut, treat people in a straightforward manner, and make the whole toll-paying experience as much of a non-event as possible.
This is a judgement call on the part of the collector. I'm going to assume based on the question that I don't actually observe any booze/weed and if that's the case all I'm going on is my impression of the driver. If something seems off, then I would escalate the situation- better safe than sorry. But, it's also entirely possible that they are just the DD. It's hard to paint these situations with one broad stroke. But if I ever did make the call, I always made sure to observe as much as I could. The more information you can provide, the better. Plate number, vehicle/operator decription, etc...
While it is incredibly rare, and would probably take a perfect storm of circumstances, I have heard of this. I can only assume it would entail upwards of 300 16 hour days.
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.
I would definitely place myself in the minority in that regard. I certainly did work with some lazy, angry, unintelligent idiots. It's not the type of job that requires a college degree or special skills to speak of so you can imagine the demographics in play. But honestly, most collectors fall pretty much in the middle of those two extremes. There's a lot of interesting stories out there, though. A lot of the older full-timers I worked with came of age in the mid-late seventies who fell into the whole thing by accident. A number of them had college degrees, but the economy was such a wreck at the time that they took the job out of necessity. Once they got a few years in with a decent salary and benefits, it was hard to get out. And there they stood, thirty years later.
I went back to school and got my PhD in Toll Collection. Now I teach it! Actually, I am happily employed as a broadcast operator at a financial news network. I held the job from age 18-23, which encompassed my college years plus one.
Speaking from a part-time position only, I started at 9.36/hour. Five years later I was around the 13-14/hour range. I never exceeded 20k in a year. No health benefits. Under our contract, full-timers received pretty decent benefits from what I gathered and also received first dibs on all overtime opportunities. Becoming full-time was not a frequent opportunity, and almost always came with relocation. I can't give you an exact yearly salary, though.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
Boy, I've never heard of that. In our system, tickets were stamped with entry and exit times so I guess the information could be available but I'm not sure if I see that holding up in court.
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.
Oh God, this could go on for a while but I suppose there were a few that stood above the rest. In our system, the ticket you're issued at your point of entry has your toll printed on it. During my last few years, the toll due (along with my collector number) was even displayed on the EZ-Pass 'Christmas Tree' light stand just beyond the booth. But two general rules apply- people don't look at signs and they definitely don't read things handed to them unless absolutely necessary. So as the hours pile up and each car pulls up with a 'how much is it?' we start to get a little worn down. Now people are fully within their rights to ask us how much it is, but our main objectives are to move traffic quickly and collect tolls accurately. If people were just a little proactive before they reach the booth, everybody wins. It's like the guys who stare out into space while they're twenty cars deep. get to the booth, can't find their ticket, need to undo their seatbelt as they get their wallet out of their back pocket, etc. We're all here, we're paying tolls, no one is happy about it, and absolutely no one is happy about waiting to pay tolls. So if we were a little more prepared, we could keep this line moving. Another big pet peeve is directions. If you have twenty cars behind you, this is not a good time to ask for directions. And if you do ask for directions, please don't start to pull away as I'm explaining the route to you. I used to play a game with people when they started to creep by just stopping mid-sentence and staring. If they stopped, I continued. If they kept moving forward, oh well. Dirty change was another one. We all understand that money is money, and we will accept your money, but this is a grimy job as is, without pennies coated in fast food grease, dirt, and other unidentifiable substances. Those are just some of the big ones.
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.
At the time he asked I think it was around 2-3 in the morning and I wasn't particularly interested in getting into it with him. I think I muttered a 'yup', gave him his change and turned away. It stung. People find themselves in places for a myriad of reasons and to have that guy bring my entire life to judgement at that moment hurt.
Those were unpleasant days, for sure. We had one three-year stretch where the tolls increased three times. During the first hike, local radio stations were organizing a mass 'pay your toll in pennies' protest. Seemed kind of counter-productive to me since the only people being hurt were collectors and toll-paying patrons, but whatever. People would constantly ask about why the tolls were going up but we never had an official reason to give them. I guess we could have cited ' Capital Improvements' but I don't think anyone really did. Our bosses put up signs on the booth about a week in advance that said 'New Toll Rates in Effect' and that was about it. The only instance I can recall in which we had a specific response was when Native Americans didn't want to pay their toll, but I never encountered a situation that I needed to cite it. (Not that i would have remembered it anyway)
Thankfully, no. I occasionally had people get out of their cars and approach the booth to see what the heck was going on, though. Some even offered to pay the toll of the person holding up the line.
Unfortunately I don't know of anything that is done to combat the exhaust that is present. I have no ill health effects to speak of, but it would be interesting study to take on in respect to the lifers. Coincidentally, a majority of my co-workers were smokers.
Yep! There are usually a few portable stereos hanging around the stations for those that want to listen to the radio. More enterprising collectors brought iPod docks. Electronics were a bit of a gray area and all collectors are supposed to be monitoring the intercom that is in every booth, so it's really important to not drown everything out.
Sure! I actually was offered snacks from cars with some frequency. Don't get me wrong, there are a ton of very decent people out there and as long as it was sealed up or I felt okay about how it looked, I usually took it. Probably the best random act of kindness I encountered was from an older lady who gave me a twenty for her toll. She told me that she didn't want any of her change back, and to let the next people go on her. The look on the next few drivers' faces was priceless. I enjoyed it too, because toll collectors rarely get to give good news! One guy missed out though because he was in a big rush and just dropped his money into my hands and sped off without a word. Never hurts to say hello...
It's been a blast. Everyone has had much more thoughtful and in-depth questions than I expected and it's been a pleasure answering them. I was hoping someone would mention license plates because I had a funny story to share. I was working at the smallest station in my section one day. There wasn't much surrounding the station but it had a knack of attracting some of the weirdest people you can imagine. I was working the exit side one day when a large white SUV pulled in carrying the largest four black women I've ever seen. Customized licensed plate read PUDDIN. I did the best I could to hold it together during the transaction. Also the guy with the GETATAN plate turned out to be a jerk. Shocking.
I'm sure we all picked up our fair share of germs from the job but nothing too severe. Some collectors even claimed that they healthier, or at least a little more resistant due to all the germs they were exposed to. I think the science on that one is a little shaky. Though, if we were ever exposed to anything questionable, we were required to deposit all the materials in a biohazard bag and get ourselves checked out at the hospital. Thankfully, this is a very rare occurrence and something I never had to go through.
I actually can't speak to collectors here in New York City as I worked in the Western part of the state and they are part of a different agency. I took a look at the civil service listing in 2010, which I believe was the last time the test was offered, and the salary grade is listed as 'Equated to G-9.' I'm not too versed in that part of the job though, as I was a part-timer for the five years that I was there.
This might be my favorite question. I would absolutely count out every single penny. I always advised anyone paying with a substantial amount of change that I would need to count it all before they left. I would then proceed to make little penny stacks, ten at a time. When I reached 130 identical penny stacks, I would let you go. The thing about being in a box with people moving all around you is that motivation to move fast can be hard to find. The only reward for moving cars is more cars and cars are basically the bane of your existence. I never liked having a long line but it was often unavoidable and as long as there are other lanes available I never felt too bad. Except for the few poor souls directly behind the troublemaker. Now, I'm not sure what collectors on the Bridge have been advised to do in that kind of situation, but from my perspective I am responsible for all of the money that I (don't) take in and I have to answer for any discrepancy in my deposit. That being said, I had a lot of people drop a lot of change on me and drive off. In that situation, I would always try to grab a plate number and a vehicle description if they were short. But again, all of this might and probably diverges from what collectors on the Bridge do. Also, I'm slowly dying on the inside while all of this is happening.
We actually don't employ gates in our system so that wasn't a possibility but people did speed through our lanes with some regularity. Sometimes we got them to stop, sometimes we didn't. Nothing too exciting though, sorry to disappoint! I did once witness a (most likely) drunk driver stop, open her car door, and promptly drop from the seat to the pavement. Drunk drivers are scary.
First and foremost, I too, am a huge fan of Fridays, FridayLover. We don't really have a procedure for handling rude and confused tourists. We're out there to collect tolls, and that's about it. Confusion is one thing. When I had wide-eyed drivers pull up with literally no idea what was happening, I just had to exercise as much patience with them as I could and get them onto the same page. Even getting people to open their windows and reach out to take the toll ticket from me when they were entering was sometimes a challenge. I had some comical stare downs with drivers who didn't speak English. It was interesting because I was doing something completely mundane, while they were doing something completely new. Even getting them to pull away after paying their toll was a challenge sometimes. That being said, being a confused tourist with a smile on your face will get you a whole lot farther than the alternative. Being confused shouldn't give you a license to be rude though. If you don't like that we aren't a currency exchange, or that our collectors don't know if certain malls have certain stores, or that we can't give you a satisfactory answer as to why there is a toll road here at all, that's fine. But there's really no need to berate a toll collector. And if you do, Canadian or not, don't be surprised when you don't get a very nice response. And I totally get that you don't want to take American change back to Canada, but if you guys could cool it on the 315 pennies for a 3.15 toll, my brethren would appreciate it.
Next time you go through, look for a small building on either side of the toll plaza. There should be a parking a lot attached to it, or very close by. Often, it's only accessible by way of the highway itself so collectors will have to go through toll lanes and pull in that way. That building is where a manger is (at some stations), where we eat, take our breaks, and generally try to forget that we are toll collectors.
It's going to vary from agency to agency. In my case, I took the civil service test in January and was called in for an interview in July. If they are hiring a class of collectors from a test, they run down the list based on test scores, so in theory the better you score, the sooner you might be able to expect an interview. Once I was hired, I spent one day getting my fingerprints taken, background checked and going through classroom training at headquarters and two days training in the field with another collector. After that, I was a bona-fide part-time toll collector.
That being said, some of my co-workers were hired without taking the test because it wasn't being offered at the time. They were allowed to start working immediately and were required to take the test when it was next offered.
I never lied to anyone about what I did for a living. I actually enjoyed talking about it because the eyes of whoever I was talking to almost always lit up out of curiosity when I mentioned that I collected tolls. I can’t tell you how many times people countered with ‘Oh my god, I’ve always wanted to ask...’ Toll collecting is kind of a depressing profession though. There’s just no way around it. I don’t know if anyone out there would readily say that they were proud of what they or the organization did day to day. But I would say there is a certain satisfaction in going out there, being dependable, and doing a good job in any profession. Personally, I tried to inject as much levity into the whole situation as I could and document all the ridiculous things that happened out there so I could have some good party stories. The two things that helped me the most was the high likelihood of not being being a lifer and the fact that I had anywhere between 1-3 jobs during most of this time period. I never felt that toll collecting defined me as a person. Rather, it was just a ridiculous thing that I did to live like any other person. I am proud to have met and worked with the people that I did, and contrary to what you might believe, I worked alongside a lot of intelligent, strong, thoughtful individuals. And a fair share of idiots.
To answer this fully, I'll back up a little here. I got the job when I was 18 years old, living at home, and starting college full-time. I became a toll collector (and a grocery store clerk) because my parents made it clear that I needed to get a job. (In my opinion, they had been more than generous in allowing me to be jobless up until that point.) For some reason, I became enamored with the idea of being a toll collector, and through a connection and a conveniently timed civil service test, I got the job. I never thought that this was going to be a career for me and during college other jobs came and went but the one constant for me was toll collecting. It provided a steady source of income, allowed me to move out of my parents house, and *ahem* enjoy college. From day one, I was just riding this out until I got the big boy job. Well, as it turns out, 2009 wasn't a great time to graduate college. Nearly five years after I started, the big boy job seemed as far away as it did on that first day but eventually I did get the call to the big leagues. So, to simply answer your question, I got another job. I am very thankful that I did though, because I'm just not sure how long I would have lasted. The unfortunate truth is that there are a lot of jobs out there that just aren't that fulfilling, and toll collecting is absolutely one of those jobs. The year after I graduated was one of the hardest years of my life. I remember breaking down to my father on the phone one night outside of a bar near the end of my time as a toll collector because I just didn't feel like my life had any purpose at the time. My hat is off to everyone that is still out there, because it's not an easy life.
I get the premise, but I don't think this one works in practice. You might have a collector that just waves you though without counting, and even if they count every single penny I don't know if you'd be buying the kind of time you need. One thing that we can all agree on is that the Westboro Baptists are insane.
It's pretty easy to do. Just take a look at the side of any vehicle and count the number of wheels rolling on the ground. Here's a chart from the U.S. DOT that shows some examples of truck combinations: http://i.imgur.com/r6hpwt9.gif We did not have cash registers in our booths. The ticket machines that we used could do a number of functions, but all cash transactions were done manually. If you needed to, you could bring a calculator of your own out to the lane with you, but during my job interview I was asked if i could make change without the use of a cash register. When I replied that I could, the interviewer tested me on the spot.
Without getting on the Toll Collector Batphone to speak to that particular collector, it's really difficult for me to offer an answer here. Nothing that you describe seems to warrant logging your license plate number but without being there it's really impossible for me to say. Different agencies have different rules and the circumstances that I described in the answer to your original question only speak for the agency that I worked for.
I will say this- collectors don't really enjoy getting out of the booth and filling out extra forms, so I am going to wager a guess that he was required to take down your license plate number, whatever the reason might be.
Sometimes I got out of the booth first and took the plate number of the vehicle before I started the transaction, but I typically explained what I was doing as I was completing the exchange. If you asked him why he was taking down your plate number, and you didn't receive a satisfactory answer, then that's just some plain old bad customer service.
When I was working out there part-time, I only traveled the Thruway for free when I was going to or coming from work. Otherwise, I had to pay like everybody else. Full-timers did get to travel the Thruway for free. If you ever see a vehicle with an orange EZ-Pass tag inside of it, that's probably a current or former Thruway employee. I can't speak as to whether that particular perk is still issued to collectors that are hired full-time presently, but there are definitely still employees out there utilizing it. Full-timers also had some options that many state employees enjoy, like going back to school for little/no cost. (though we are not state employees) Part-timers had small incentives that rewarded them for working a certain amount of hours per week/moth. Other than that, we had to settle for the satisfaction of getting to interface with the toll-paying public for eight hours at a time.
Collectors where I worked are not necessarily required to flag counterfeit money, but they are required to fill out a form at the end of their shift tying all large bills to the vehicles that paid with them. When they do receive a 50 or 100 dollar bill they are required to take down the vehicle's plate number along with the serial number of the bill. That way, if the bill is rejected by the bank that is counting the deposit, the agency has some sort of information on where the bill came from. As with so many other jobs, sometimes the paper trail is just as important as the end result.
Nothing complicated here. There were crosswalks behind the booths spanning the toll lanes. If there's a car in the lane, we are taught to make visual contact with both the driver and the collector manning the lane. When we've ensured that it is safe to cross, we do so.
Sorry that this answer doesn't include something about a complex set of tunnels. There's an OSHA video out there somewhere that manages to make this even less interesting.
In my experience, recording a plate number isn't usually correlated to the amount of a toll. When I worked as a collector, it was used when patrons lost their entry ticket, paid with a bill larger than a twenty, didn't have enough money to pay the toll. That said, all toll systems are different, so they may have been justified in taking your plate number.
The answer you receieved isn't really that satisfactory, but without context it's hard for me to be of any help to you. As long as you paid your toll, I wouldn't sweat it though. Logging things like license plate numbers is often just part of the bureacratic paper trail.
No way for me to say. I'd give them the benefit of the doubt in regards to the 4-8 week estimate. Government agencies tend to move slower than private entities, particularly when it comes to hiring. Good luck!
I suppose it depends on the situation and the agency. If the collector can be identified, it is reasonably certain that they will be addressed by a supervisor. I can't speak for what kinds of penalties ensue, but I would guess that they are largely based on the type of complaint combined with the work record of the collector.
Here's the thing about the situation that you describe though. Once an EZPass tag registers when a car is passing through a lane, it can't be reversed. If the collector had taken your money, you would have been charged the toll a second time. Additonally, the collector's drawer would be over by the amount of your cash toll. (Which does no harm to her, but is your money and should not go to her drawer.) I understand that you had no intention of paying with the rental's EZPass tag, but sometimes they do go off accidentally. (Often, they'll be in those enclosed boxes on the windshield which generally prevent them from being read. These boxes don't work 100% of the time though.) I would take whatever toll charges you see on your bill up with the rental company, and see if they would be willing to reimburse you.
If she didn't attempt to clearly explain what was happening, that's unfortunate, but it sounds to me like she was following the correct protocol.
Technically, no. We are not a currency exchange but the agency I worked at did accept Canadian currency for toll payment at a variable rate that they set. In my five years at the agency, the discount rate varied from 10-30%. This meant that a patron paying a toll with Canadian currency might be credited with as little as 70 cents for every dollar tendered.
So yes, you can pay a toll with Canadian money, but the international exchange rate will not be taken into consideration. Additionally, I cannot speak for agencies further south of where I worked but I would imagine the farther south you go, the less likely Canadian currency will be accepted.
A collector might exchange the Canadian money for you, but be cautious of the rate it is discounted at.
The exam that I took had three sections. The first was vehicle classification, consisting of pictures of a variety of combinations. Tolls often vary by type of vehicle, and collectors are audited, so being able to classify and charge the appropriate toll is critical to the job. The second section consisted of adding up money that was printed on the page. (Which I found substantially more difficult than actually having real money in front of me to pick up and count.) The third section consisted of totaling up deposit slips.
I'm sure different exams vary from agency to agency.
There are a few situations that require collectors to exit the booth and take down license plate numbers. We are required to take down license plate numbers for cars that paid with 50 and 100 dollar bills. We are also required to take down license plate numbers of vehicles that do not have, or have lost their entry tickets. Finally, when customers with no cash pull in, we are required to take down the information on their drivers license along with the plate number of the vehicle they are in.
Honestly, your chances of getting a full-time position are beyond miniscule. When the rare full-time opportunity does come along, your lack of seniority would immediately disqualify you. In the five years I was employed there, I couldn't even sniff anything resembling the chance of full-time employment. In fact, I worked with part-timers who had been working with the authority for well over a decade who would have been open to full-time employment if it had been available. Part of this was their reluctance to relocate to other parts of the state and work undesirable shifts(overnights). More constraining though, is the challenging fiscasl situation that agencies like the NYS Thruway find themselves in. Costs are ballooning and a big reason for that is salaries of and obligations to full-time employees. The NYS Thruway Authority cut 234 jobs just this year so I doubt they're looking to take on many(if any) full-timers.
Now if you're looking to work downstate, the work will be more plentiful, and you might have a better shot at full-time employment sometime in the relatively distant future. You also might have the opportunity to work with a different agency such as the Port Authority or the MTA.
For example, I did a little bit of searching and came up with this:
MTA Job Listing
As for the Thruway Authority, keep an eye out on civil service listings for New York State. If you're interested in relocating at some point, a good way to start would be to come up and take the toll collector exam the next time it is offered in in the state. It's not given with any predictable regularity, so I can't really give you a whole lot more guidance than that. Good luck!
I have no idea. A google search yielded the following:
Simple enough. Full-timers have a set number of paid days that they can take off each year. I'm sure exact numbers vary based on seniority. Part-timers in my system submit availabilty well ahead of time, and can make themselves unavailable as many days as they wish, excluding holidays. Part-timers do not receive any kind of vacation time. Part-timers frequently slide in to cover full-timers during vacations.
If you don't catch it before the car drives away, note it on your log for the day. Collectors are responsible for all money at the end of the day, and if a discrepancy exists above a certain threshold disciplinary action can ensue. You get pretty quick at counting change so unless it's off by a coin you'll be able to feel that it's not quite right and hopefully stop the car before it takes off. Some drivers are great about waiting a second and others could care less.
I have often found myself hanging out of my booth waving my arms wildly trying to flag down a driver as he starts to move away.
As far as jobs go, you could certainly do worse. I did not particularly enjoy the work, so that will color my list of upsides and downsides. Ulitmately, I stayed as long as I did because for the area, the pay was right, and it afforded me enough flexibility to attend school full-time.
- Pay is typically higher than minimum wage
- Opportunity to meet all kinds of people. (I consider this both an upside and a downside)
- Tangible face of state/authority that is taking money directly out of drivers' pockets.
- Noisy and exhaust-filled work environment.
- Toll roads don't close. They are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some holidays are typically required. You will likely work difficult hours. You may have to report during and work through difficult weather conditions.
- Money is disgusting. When you get your first handful of dust-covered, greasy, motor oil-covered pennies, you'll understand just how dirty I'm talking.
- You will answer the same set of questions hundreds of times every day.
- Congratulations, in addition to being a toll collector, you have also become a tour guide.
- People in cars are IMPATIENT!
- A lot of people travel without cash
- A lot of people like to argue the merits of toll roads with collectors as cars pile up behind them.
Some people I worked with were very good at taking all of this in stride. Some people walk out after the first day. I was somewhere in the middle. Good luck!
The starting pay is certainly more fair now than it was when I started at 9 and change, and the scheduled raises are a nice thing to count on. If collectors make themselves available across the board it isn't terribly difficult to reach the 70 hour bonus mark, especially during the summer months. I guess the downside to this arrangement is that your earning potential really plateaus after the five-year mark. Whether overall compensation is fair is to up to each employee, coupled with the economic demographics of a very large state. I will say that I, along with many other part-time collectors, worked multiple part-time jobs while I was employed as a collector.
Congrats on the job! I didn't find the training at headquarters particularly difficult. The instructors are thorough but a lot of the information won't sink until you get out on the road. It's been almost nine years since I went though it, so things may have changed, but from what i recall it's a lot of sitting in conference rooms and listening, paperwork, fingerprinting, and OSHA videos. It's a good forum for questions and for running through hypothetical questions with instructors that have been through it all.
At headquarters the onus is on the instructors. Once you get on the road, the onus will be on you. Good luck!
Our booths have both heat and air coniditioning. Due to the fact that we work with a window open for most of the day, it is impossible to regulate the temperature. Coats, gloves, short sleeves, and tears are the best tools we have some days.
As with any other job that deals with money, shortages are a huge deal. If your drawer does not match the expected total to the negative side(past a certain threshold) the issue is flagged at the time of bank deposit. A manger meets with a collector to go over the shift in question to try and identify the reason for the shortage. By this time. the shift in question is months in the past, so it is often hard to recall the day in question. Reasons for shortages typically include giving out the wrong amount of change, misclassification of vehicles, and unfortunately, theft.
I went through this once and it is not a pleasant experience. In my case, a direct cause for the shortage could be not identified but was most likely included giving incorrect change, likely for a large bill.
I was also put on a re-training track once for deposit slip errors. You see, when you make a deposit at the end of your shift the paperwork that goes with the money must match the money in the bag exactly, both in total money deposited and exact totals of each denomination. That's 100s, 50s, 20s, 10s, 5s, 1s, dollar coins, half-dollar coins, quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies, Canadian currency. If there is any discrepency between what is in the bag and the paperwork the deposit is flagged. This applies even if the amount deposited by the collector is 100% correct. If a certain percentage of your monthly deposits come back with errors, you are flagged for re-training. Multiple months of over-the-threshold deposit errors can lead to increased disciplinary action, leading all the way up to termination. Luckily, I only hit the threshold once.
There were three shifts every day: 11p-7a, 7a-3p, and 3p-11p. Full-timers generally have set schedules and part-timers fill in the gaps. In my particular situation, part-timers can set their working parameters to fit their preferences, but limiting available hours can severly limit assigned shifts. In the schedule periods where I made myself completely available my schedule was across the board. Part-time collectors work both entire 8 hour shifts or relief shifts all the way down to 4 hours. Sometimes it worked out really well (eg. a bunch of afternoon shifts in a row) and other times it was a little more challenging. (eg. 7a shift at a station 25 miles away after working at that station until 11p the previous night)
I'll be honest, I'm not sure if anyone can be held liable in that situation. Usually when any kind of incident happens out on the road, drivers can request to make a report to whatever law enforcement agency has jurisdiction. Personally, I'd never instruct a car to back up out of a lane unless absolutely necessary and I would physically get out of my booth and back everyone up so that this kind of situation has as little chance of happening as possible. Sorry to hear about the damages to your vehicle.
Part-timers like myself had the ability to set our own availabilities. Outside of holidays, we could make ourselves as available for as few or as many days as we wanted. I guess the only caveat to that is that the days that we made ourselves available didn't automatically translate into shifts. So you could make yourself available for weekends only, but there would be a high likelihood that you wouldn't work all weekend days.
We classify vehicles based on height and axles on the ground. Anything below 7'6" is classified a 'low' and anything above 7'6" is a 'high'. So an average car is classified as a 2L while an average tractor trailer is classified as a 5H. Luckily, we don't have to take weight or commercial status into consideration when classifying. I know that a different system was in place preceding my arrival and that it had been become somewhat complicated, so this system was installed in an effort to simply the process. (Something about noting the number of passengers on buses, etc...)
I always found toll collecting and reading/studying to be a dreadful combination. As soon as you pick up your book and read a line, voila- a car appears! Put the book down, handle the customer, pick the book back up, read the same line over again, put the book down for another customer, rinse, repeat.
At slow times, this may not be the scenario, but slow times are generally early mornings, late evenings, and overnight hours. Not optimal times for consuming content that will need to be retained.
Everyone is different, of course, and you may be able to study in this environment but I had a difficult time of it.
I don't really know anything about operations at the Triborough Bridge but this might shed some light on your experience:
It looks like these officers may collect tolls from time to time, which might explain the potential ticket. Pure speculation from my perspective, though.
I tried not to think about it, honestly. I know some coworkers have had money thrown at them in the past but nothing much beyond that. I think the only time I actually felt unsafe at a station was when I was working solo and the power went out in the middle of the night. When you lose all the lights and the hum of the electronic ticket machines, all these fun scenarios start running through your head.
I took no extra safety precautions on the job. State police units were never particularly far away, and the vast majority of conflicts with drivers are verbal and last a few seconds at most.
I'm going to level with you. There are no prospects. The boredom is perpetual. GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN, MAN!
Alright. Now that I've got that out of my system, I can give you some actual advice. I'm not sure about your actual employment situation, or for that matter, the structure of the toll system that employs you. However, the future facing any toll collector on this side of the Atlantic, is well, not great. Part-time employees rarely see opportunity for advancement, and when they do arise, hours are not great and relocation is often involved. Full-time employees often have a little more going for them in terms of benefits and job security, but not a whole lot of organizational growth prospects. Even if you are up for some kind of advancement, organizations like this often work at a very bureaucratic pace.
So where does this leave us, Tim? I'm not sure, actually. I had the benefit of doing the job while in college, giving me some hope for the future. When I spent a full year post-graduation still at this job, I nearly had a complete breakdown. The job is good for a certain type of person. I was not that person, and it doesn't seem that you are either. Even if it provides for you, if it doesn't engage you, challenge you, and fulfill you, it isn't worth your time. Use your time around the job productively. If you have other interests, pursue them. Use the job for what it is in the interim, and set goals. Big goals. Goals that your co-workers will shrug at and laugh off. You're outgrown this challenge, Tim. On to the next. (And if your personal situation prohibits a new path, read as much as you can while you're out on the road, and be good to all that cross through your booth. You never know what's around the corner...)
My experience did not actually include an oral exam; more of a regular job interview. I could speculate as to the content but I wouldn't want to point you in the wrong direction. If you passed the written exam I'm sure you'll do fine. Good luck!
Never been offered anything like that. If it were to happen, it's a bit tricky. Collectors on the road that I worked on are audited every shift by both axle count and money totals. Additionally, patrons have a ticket that must be surrendered upon their exit. If you accept something in lieu of money, the axle count will be off, and the processed ticket will add to your money total for the night. If you were to accept something from a driver, you would still somehow need to account for the axles coming through your lane and the money dictated by the exit ticket. So if a driver gave me something instead of his $1.50 toll, I'd still need to account for that money.
Congratulations! Full-time work in this field is good if you can get it. Happy to hear that you've been able to work your way up to it!
Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope that I have been able to give people an accurate insight into a day in the life. At this point, you're probably more qualified than I to be answering questions about the job. I've come across so many people whose eyes light up when I tell them I used to be a collector. It just seems to be one of those mysterious jobs people wonder about and I hope I've been able to convey that we're just people standing in metal boxes in the middle of a big road(with some good stories).
People are terrible. But sometimes they're okay. And that's enough for me to keep showing up everyday. Good luck out there brother.
Nope! In our system, collectors are audited based on what they their expected cash total is versus what they deposited. A deficit that small would not be flagged for review. Through the course of a shift, collectors are often shorted by some amount of change by a number of cars and conversely sometimes cars drop too much in our hands and drive off. Oddly enough it generally evens out well enough. There were a couple times where I got shorted a bit and threw a dollar or two in my tray because I never made it back.
Don't sweat a penny though. Trust me, we ALWAYS have pennies laying around.
Did this happen to you? Generally a good idea to stop and make a report when things like this happen. I didn't work in Kansas so I don't have any familiarity with the idiosyncrasies of their system. Without seeing the incident, it's impossible to assign fault. If the gate came down while a car is passing through then MAYBE that would suggest a malfunction but again I can't really say.
Hi Caitlin. Without knowing you personally or what your goals might be it's hard to say whether a part-time toll collector job would be right for you. Some general notes:
My part-time rate was one of the better rates you could get in my region without technical skills/experience.
If you do not enjoy working with the public, DO NOT apply for this job. Conversely, if you do like talking to people you will have the opportunity to do so. (Though they may not always have the nicest things to say to you.) Part-time work on a toll road for me meant taking a lot of hours around full-timers and those part-timers that restricted their schedules into very specific hours. This meant that there was a lot of inconsistency in my schedule month-to-month. Since I was willing to work overnights I was able to get a quite a few eight-hour shifts, with the caveat being I had to work from 11p - 7a with some frequency. Remember that toll roads don't close so the hours can be difficult. Money is dirty, and toll plazas can be loud places, If you feel that large amounts of change might make your irrationally angry, this might be a job that you want to avoid.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Good luck!
Hahaha this is by far my favorite question so far. Unfortunately I don't know anything about operations on the Bay Bridge so I can't really give you much specific advice.
If you have a receipt from the transaction, there might be some identifying information on it. (In New York we had collector #'s that were printed out on the receipts)
If you go over the Bay Bridge frequently you could try to ask other collectors, but that would likely be very hit or miss.
Honestly, I would post a Craigslist missed connection. If you write it artfully enough, the Internet might just take up your cause. Good luck!
Gabriella, unfortunately I can't give you a better answer than maybe, maybe not. I've never had experience working in a system that employed exact change lanes so I can't speak to what happens when things go awry. If you do get some sort of ticket, I'd find a way to protest it since you sincerely tried to pay the toll, but hopefully you won't hear anything at all. Good luck!
Thankfully I was never the target of an attempted robbery. It's something you hear about occasionally, but I'm happy to say that it seems relatively rare.
Cursed out? Sure. Nobody likes waiting in line to pay a toll. Toll collectors don't love standing in metal boxes for hours on end taking dirty money from people that don't want to hand it over to begin with. It's a combustible situation. I tried my best to not take it personally. It's not easy.
The only thing I can really recall is having to make change on the spot without the use of a calculator. (We didn't have cash registers in the booth) so you need to be able to calculate change that drivers are owed on your own. There were some other scenario-based questions, I suppose, and general inquiries about customer service experience. There is often a civil service exam somewhere in the process and that often serves as the basis for the job. (If you can pass the test, you can probably do the job. I got the sense that the interview was primarily to confirm the results of the test. Again, I'm sure other collectors have different experiences.)
While roads do close in emergencies and during particularly adverse weather conditions, it is correct that toll roads do need to remain staffed at all times. If relief cannot make it to you, unfortunately you will generally be expected to remain at your post until they can safely make their way to you. In more general terms, you always try to arrive at least 10-15 mins before the official shift start time so that you can relieve earlier shifts by the time they are scheduled to leave. Some lanes will close/open depending on the time of day, but to maintain continuous service collectors generally cannot close their lane before relief is in place.
What can you say, really? Drivers agree to pay the toll the moment they enter the portion of highway that is designated 'toll road'. I was never given official strategies to deal with customers that didn't want to pay a toll. If they had specific questions about the system or why they were being charged a certain amount I was happy to answer them but if you just drive up and complain about the concept of a toll my general response was something along the lines of
Those lots are reserved for employees and other authorized individuals and are not to be used by the general public. If you have to stop off for a second that's generally okay, but you would not be able to park your vehicle there for any significant length of time.
The only time I required a license was when an individual did not have enough money to pay. We were required to copy down the name and address of the driver and take down the corresponding plate number along with the amount owed. Two copies to audit, one copy to the driver. I'm not aware of other situations with other agencies that might require it, but I assume that is the most common reason a collector would need it.
I mean, it was harder than walking into places of business and handing them a resume. The authority I worked for tended to hire in classes so you kind of had to just keep calling to gauge if they were hiring a group, especially during the years-long gap in which there was no civil service test offered. Once they exhausted the entire list of acceptable candidates that had taken the test, they would hire off the street, so at the end of the day difficulty is kind of directly correlated to timing.
I'm sure you'd get a myriad of answers from different collectors so just speaking solely for myself- the interpersonal aspect was by far the most difficult for me. Nobody is happy to see a toll collector, and toll collectors aren't particularly jazzed that they have to spend the whole day dealing with people that don't want anything to do with them. Honestly it got to the point where saying nothing was sometimes the safest option. And I can definitely understand why people might find that rude, but it was mostly self-preservation. It's just one of those jobs where finding your center is crucial because if you react to every outside stimulus, you just won't last.
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