Toll upgrades include open-road option | Volvo truck plant on way in Mexico

Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, April 11, 2024:

Ohio Turnpike revamps toll collection system

Ohio Turnpike toll plazaToll gates are now open for E-ZPass customers along the turnpike to modernize the toll collection system.Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission this week implemented a new toll collection system.

“The modernization of the toll collection system has been a long, challenging, and complex project," said Ferzan M. Ahmed, P.E., executive director of the turnpike commission. "But the moment we have anticipated -- following meticulous testing of the electronic tolling system over the past several months -- has arrived."

To accommodate all travelers on the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike -- designated I-80, I-90 and I-76 -- the new toll collection system will feature a combination of open road tolling lanes for E-ZPass customers and a gated exit system for non-E-ZPass customers who prefer to pay by cash or credit card.

The turnpike commission said motorists entering the Ohio Turnpike with E-ZPass have been experiencing features of the new toll collection system since early 2023.

The first phase, which permanently opened the entry gates in all E-ZPass toll booth lanes, was successfully deployed at 20 interchanges from Toll Plaza 52 (Toledo Airport-Swanton) in Lucas County to Toll Plaza 209 (Warren) in Trumbull County. The exit gates in all dedicated E-ZPass lanes were opened.

More significantly, 127 lanes at these interchanges were upgraded with new electronic tolling components, including sensors and other equipment to read E-ZPass transponders, and to classify vehicles by the number of axles and vehicle height.

Automated toll payment machines, which accept cash and credit cards, were installed at all 20 toll plaza interchanges, as well as the four mainline toll plazas.

The lane conversion process also included the installation of message signs, which provide travelers with messages in the toll booth lanes when entering and exiting the toll road.

Additionally, under the new system, nine toll plazas no longer charge tolls. These nine interchanges will still be accessible to motorists, but the toll booths will no longer be staffed.

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In 2023, combined E-ZPass use by the Ohio Turnpike’s passenger vehicle and commercial truck customers was 74.1%, up 0.7% from 2022.

The modernization of the toll collection system is the largest construction project in Ohio Turnpike history since its completion in October 1955. 

More information about the toll system changes can be found here.

[Related: Toll roads on the rise: What's an operator's best electronic-collections option?]

Volvo increasing North American truck production capacity

The Volvo Group announced Thursday that it will build a new heavy-duty truck manufacturing plant in Mexico to supplement the company’s U.S. production.

The plant will provide additional capacity to support the growth plans of both Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks in the U.S. and Canadian markets, and support Mack truck sales in Mexico and Latin America. The plant is expected to be operational in 2026. 

The Mack Lehigh Valley Operations (LVO) plant in Pennsylvania and the Volvo New River Valley (NRV) plant in Virginia will continue to be the company’s main North American heavy truck production sites. Volvo has invested more than $73 million over the last five years in LVO expansion and upgrades, and is currently investing an additional $80 million to prepare for future production. The NRV plant is completing a six-year, $400 million dollar expansion/upgrade to prepare for production of the new Volvo VNL model

The new plant will be approximately 1.7 million square feet in size, and will focus on production of heavy-duty conventional vehicles for the Volvo and Mack brands. It will be a complete conventional vehicle assembly facility including cab body-in-white production and paint. 

Adding production in Mexico will deliver logistical efficiencies for supporting sales to the southwestern/western regions of the U.S., and to Mexico and Latin America, Volvo Group noted. It will also provide “a mature supply and production ecosystem that will complement the U.S. system and increase the resilience and flexibility of the Group’s North American industrial footprint.”

[Related: Quick spin: 'Beginning of a new era' with the revamped VNL]

TA roadside technicians to be protected by 'move over' alert system

TravelCenters of America (TA), in conjunction with the NATSO Foundation, is implementing a new initiative to enhance the safety of TA’s Emergency Roadside Assistance technicians who repair commercial vehicles along the Interstate Highway System.

All TA Truck Service Emergency Roadside Assistance (ERA) vehicles are now equipped with the HAAS Alert Safety Cloud digital alerting platform, a software that sends “slow down” and “move over” alerts to oncoming drivers when an ERA vehicle activates its flashing lights and is stopped alongside a roadway.

These digital alerts are sent directly to drivers using popular navigation apps like Waze and Apple Maps, and through the infotainment screens of 2018 and newer Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram vehicles.

“HAAS Alert’s real-time digital notifications provide a safer work environment for the thousands of team members who provide emergency roadside services to professional drivers in need of help,” said Debi Boffa, TA CEO. “Safety is our top priority, and we are extremely proud to drastically improve roadside working conditions and better protect both our team members and professional drivers.”

The NATSO Foundation in 2023 unveiled a strategic partnership with HAAS Alert to enhance safety for the industry’s roadside service technicians. Under this program, the NATSO Foundation aims to connect HAAS Alert with the nation’s network of truck stop and travel center locations.

[Related: With six more highway workers dead in Maryland, double down in the fight against safety complacency]

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