First publishedin ITS International
While Kapsch is best known for providing tolling systems, the majority of its business comes from operations and service provision.
Kapsch’s Bernd Eberstaller explains how the company’s new Tolling Services will help expand the number and capabilities of EETS services providers.
By 2017, the European Electronic Tolling Service (EETS) should have been in operation for several years but it still remains some way away and with several significant hurdles still to be addressed.
The concept behind EETS is simple enough: road users should be able to drive across Europe using only a single transponder to pay for all tolls, with the account-handling and reconciliation of payments being done by EETS service providers.
The reality is rather more complicated, as Kapsch’s Bernd Eberstaller observes.
“In the first instance, potential EETS service providers have to consider the business case and there is relatively little room for manoeuvre within a complex series of constraints. The provision of EETS services will be characterised by high numbers of contracts, very high numbers of transactions and slim margins.”
He says sheer volume will be a factor affecting service providers’ viability. Another obstacle is the incomplete series of national certification processes which continues on, with no clear end-date in sight.
“A solution, of sorts, has been the establishment of various so-called ‘Regional EETS’ (REETS) projects,” says Eberstaller. “These establish a smaller scale EETS-type operating environment between neighbouring geographic areas or along specific transport corridors which carry significant volumes of road traffic.
“Technologically, EETS is readily achievable — the various REETS projects prove that — and there is a common assumption that many of the REETS will be absorbed into EETS once it is fully functioning. However, from the toll service providers’ perspective, gaining and retaining market share will be one of the main challenges – initially in getting drivers to sign up for an EETS provider rather than a national one. The ability to offer clear benefits and advantages, such as ease of access to combined tolling and mobility services such as fleet management, parking and fuel payments, is one solution.”
Within the geographic area which EETS will eventually cover, there are already quite a number of tolling payment service providers – some of which concentrate on the road haulage sector while others offer solutions to all road users. As these have a large and established customer base they are all potential EETS providers.
But Eberstaller perceives something of a sticking-point: “The proliferation of on-the-move services would suggest that tolling is ‘just another app’, whereas it in fact continues to require considerable expertise to implement correctly and avoid issues such as high revenue leakage.”
This has prompted the company to look at how to help accelerate the take-up of combined tolling and mobility services such as those outlined above. It is also looking to shift the emphasis of some of its own business, taking advantage of existing expertise in provision of managed services (see box: ‘Putting the customer first’).
Recently it acquired a majority share in Tolltickets, a tolling services business active in 14 European countries that allows individual drivers (both trucks and smaller vehicles) to sign-up and get a tag that works on all electronic tolling systems in one or more countries. For vehicles of 3.5t and above Kapsch partners with the French company Axxés.
According to Kapsch, its involvement in the entire tolling value chain enables fine-tuning of any part of the tolling process to help optimise the service experience and make tolling and mobility services more attractive.
At the centre of all this is Tolling Services which Kapsch describes as a portfolio extension enabling private companies from other business domains, such as fuel card providers, to offer EETS.
“This is a ‘white label’ tolling and mobility services product that European mobility service providers – including fuel card or fleet management service providers, insurance companies and OEMs - can own-brand and offer to road-using customers,” says Eberstaller.
“It is a fully functioned, plug-in, technology-agnostic solution which bundles together tolling with other mobility services. It also shares amongst participants the initially high entry costs.”
According to Kapsch this is because most European toll domains have yet to be certified and will need a back office fit to handle high transaction volumes while GNSS systems like those in Germany require significant investment in On-Board Unit deployment.
“Tolling Services is designed for the B2B mobility service providers such as the fuel card companies. Participating companies will have a choice of which of Kapsch’s on-board units [see Transponder Technology] they offer the fleets and drivers signed up to their services while the back office system will take care of transaction management with any tolling operator across Europe. A range of additional services including customisation, distribution, maintenance and end-of-life take-back, can also be rolled into the contract.”
Early next year Tolltickets will become an EETS service provider when it brings the new Tolling Services solution to market. Axxès already delivers GNSS-based tolling and information services (using Kapsch technology) to 30,000 road haulage companies in France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium.
Eberstaller: “Both the passenger car and truck concepts use a business-to-business approach. Tolltickets will not, for instance, be engaging directly with truck operating companies but will instead look to enable its business partners to do so [although Axxès will continue to do so under its own brand].The aim of Tolling Services is to enable as many mobility service providers as possible to bundle tolling and mobility applications for any vehicle type and the white label nature of the solution can help them achieve that aim.
“The keys to success will be business models and architectures which drive down cost.”
The availability of Tolling Services will track individual EU countries’ ratification processes while certifications in European member states that have ratified EETS are on-going. This could eventually include Turkey and Russia, as well as further European Union member states. Eberstaller sees Kapsch’s long-standing involvement in international certification efforts and the geographic spread of its existing customers as an advantage in this context.
“Tolling Services is of equal relevance to REETS schemes. The features offered can accelerate convergence towards EETS and favour open market competition,” he concludes.
Putting the customer first
The introduction of Tolling Services has been driven by a number of developments.
Over the last few years there has been significant shifts in the focus of transport strategy. While in the road freight sector the focus remains on overall cost reduction and trip cost control, in the private user sector it is an increasing emphasis on the journey experience and the opinions and attitudes of the individual traveller. This has created the impetus for more comprehensive mobility and traveller-related services and applications.
According to Kapsch, this wider traffic management market is asking for more feature-rich and capable solutions, which it is addressing through several strategic acquisitions aimed at providing a seamless urban and inter-urban tolling and traffic management offer.
In the tolling sector, Kapsch has for some years provided managed services, which account for two-thirds of its current revenue, and sees the launch of Tolling Services as a white label product as a logical next step.
Kapsch’s third-generation transponder technology complies with the latest harmonised electronic fee collection specifications and standards and supports applications including tolling, automatic vehicle identification, parking and access control. By providing different security domains for each of the applications, different entities can have access to different areas of the transponder’s memory. Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity enables third-party devices to access the relevant application in the transponder.
This allows for new communication and payment solutions and it is now possible to re-personalise a transponder at any time, and on the fly.
With the right security permissions, the transponder can be accessed by not just one but a series of concessions and information previously stored within a transponder — such as tariffs, battery status, vehicle data and so on — is now accessible to the user.