San Miguel Corporation (SMC) reported that the number of motorists who use cashless electronic toll collection along Skyway and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) has increased to 85%, despite the continuing availability of cash lanes.
SMC, which operates SLEX, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), the Skyway System, NAIA Expressway, and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), said in a statement on Tuesday that the higher utilization of Autosweep RFID toll collection has significantly improved traffic throughout its toll plazas.
“Since December, and even through January and February, there has been a big improvement in traffic throughput at almost all our toll plazas, as majority of motorists have followed government’s safety protocol of using electronic toll collection. We’re no longer seeing the kind of lines we used to have when majority of motorists were using cash payments,” SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said.
“So apart from minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19, especially now that there are new variants, the cashless system is also providing more convenience and ease of travel for motorists, especially now that more people are coming back to work and the economy is reopening gradually. This is definitely a big benefit to motorists,” Ang added.
The government’s mandate to shift to full cashless toll collection was supposed to take full effect last January 11. This has been deferred to allow more motorists, particularly non-regular users of tollways and those living in far-off provinces, ample time to avail of free RFID stickers. With this, cash lanes are still available at expressways.
Ang, however, shared that at major toll plazas such as the Calamba toll gate, where there are still a large volume of motorists using cash, traffic congestion continues to be a regular occurrence in the area, as the buildup of cash motorists tend to block RFID users.
The company also said that there’s been a significant number of cases where RFID motorists with no load or insufficient load balance repeatedly use the electronic payment collection (ETC) lanes, causing traffic in the area.
The Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) earlier announced a plan to implement a “Three-Strike Policy” for erring motorists who use ETC lanes with insufficient load credits. The Department of Transportation (DoTR) and TRB are expected to release the policy’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) soon.
According to DOTr Undersecretary Garry de Guzman, who has been appointed as alternate TRB chairman by DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade, the policy is aimed at eliminating disruption at the toll lanes and avoiding inconvenience for compliant RFID users.
Under the three-strike policy, erring motorists will receive a reminder to load for the first offense, a warning for the second offense, and apprehension and pre-COVID penalties for those who commit the offense for the third time.
Ang said that the company will comply with TRB’s new policy as its system is able to monitor repeat offenders. He also assured existing RFID users even more convenience in reloading and monitoring their Autosweep accounts.
Motorists can either top up or reload at any of the Autosweep Point-of-Sales, SMC Toll Gates, and accredited Merchant Reloading partners across the whole Luzon area.
Online reloading is also available, through partner banks Bank of Commerce, BPI, Union Bank, China Bank, Maybank, and popular gateways G-Cash, Pay Maya, Eon, Coins.ph, and Justpay.To. Self-service reloading is also available via Touchpay, ECPay, and E-Tap.
SMC tollways STAR, SLEX, Skyway, NAIAX and TPLEX also continue to provide a lane for cash-paying motorists at its toll plazas, but this will only continue only until the DOTr imposes the full Cashless Program.
“With all these efforts, I hope our motorists will find it much easier to comply with government mandate and shift to the much safee and faster system of electronic toll collection. We will continue to work to make necessary adjustments and improvements to support government initiatives and ensure that motorists will have better, safer journeys on our expressways,” Ang said.