Senior toll collector from M11 Moscow - Saint Petersburg about her work

"We welcome governors as any other road user"

Being a toll collector is not easy, but very interesting job. Why does a toll collector need to be quick? Is it easier to deal with violators now since the new barriers have been installed? What kind of people can you meet on highways? Learn the answers from Nina Malusheva, Toll Supervisor on the toll plaza at 208 km of M11 Moscow – St. Petersburg highway.

Every day starts with a briefing

- What are you responsible for?
- Our main task is to collect toll ensuring a smooth traffic flow. The toll supervisor is responsible for controlling the process, maintaining records and interacting with other services within the company, such as the traffic safety inspectors, operating division and operators.
However as we are the first contact point of road users a significant part of our job is also communication
 with road users. We inform them about tariffs, services, changes in road traffic and clarify controversial questions. 
I am responsible for toll collectors working at two toll plazas, on the 208th and 214th km of M11 Moscow – St. Petersburg highway. Depending on the shift, the total number of personnel can reach up to 14.

- What does your working day look like?
- Any new shift starts with a handover from the previous toll supervisor. You have to do it to ensure a proper flow of traffic across the lanes at the toll plaza. Then we have a meeting: I give some recommendations, new instructions, explain how the tariffs have changed. That is an important stage which helps collectors to be prepared for their working day, because toll collectors are the first  contact with our customers, and they should be able to answer any question. After the meeting is over, every collector gets change and goes to his or her toll lane.
Meanwhile, toll supervisor is putting together reports, sending requests to related services for equipment maintenance and software configuration, controlling the other toll collectors and advising road users on problematic issues.
At the end of the shift, the toll collectors must count the money and make a record in the system.  I check the numbers to make sure they match up. If everything is okay, I confirm the revenue; if there is a discrepancy in the numbers, I find the reason. Then the cash delivery vehicle comes to collect all the money. 

- How do you control other collectors? And why is it necessary?
- At my working place, I can see all the cameras installed in the toll plazas. In our two toll plazas we have in total 32 cameras: 12 are installed at the 208th km, and 4 at the 214th km. Every lane is monitored from two points – from the booth and from above the auto barrier. 
The purpose of such monitoring is to ensure financial control and safety. We record all videos and, if necessary, submit them to the Traffic Police.
Sometimes, the monitoring allows us to take preventive measures and avoid an emergency, sometimes we use it to control the operations, and very rarely it can be used to correct a collector’s mistake.

- What kind of a person should one be to become a toll collector? 
- You need to be exceptionally attentive and concentrate on your tasks. Besides, toll supervisor should respond quickly in stressful and conflict situations and should know how to resolve them. When road users are stressed or angry, you should be able to put out such "fires", offer them a solution, while keeping the flow of traffic smooth so that other drivers don't have to wait in a jam.

- Is there any training for toll collectors? 
- Yes, and it’s mandatory. The training course lasts for 3 days: first, you learn the theory, the instructions, and then you go to practice. The main value of the company is the safety of customers and employees, so the focus of training is workplace safety. All the collectors have special instructions that are their handbooks. These instructions describe extraordinary situations and how to handle them. For instance, how to perform an unusual transaction.
When newcomers feel comfortable with the theory, they are allowed to work at the lane, under the supervision of senior colleagues. These practical sessions instruct new collectors how to execute any financial operation, what to do if you have a car with a flexible coupler on your lane, or if the driver thinks the system has incorrectly determined the class of automobile. Only then a new collector is ready to work.

- What kind of a career one can build in the company as a toll collector?
- Of course, you have some steps for promotion. If you start as a toll collector, your next step will be a toll supervisor. Then you can become a deputy head of the toll collection department of a section. It mostly depends on your will and diligence.

There are fewer violators now

- What is the most difficult thing about your job?
- Handling disgruntled customers, I would say. Toll collectors are at the front: usually, it is their task to experience the road users’ discontent. And it isn't easy. When a collector has run out of arguments, and the driver still doesn’t want to cooperate, he calls for toll supervisor.

- And how do you handle such clients?
- Most often, they disagree with the fee. Sometimes, they say that they have just lost their way and it wasn’t their intent to use the toll road. There are more disgruntled customers in summer: during these three months we have to handle up to 50-70 situations.
Our task is to explain the situation and help the customers, as much as we can. In every toll plaza, there are all the instructions, documents, orders of concessionaire or owner of the road. If necessary, the driver can always ask the collector to show them.

- And what do you do with violators? Do you have any special action plan for such occurrences?
 - It is difficult to confront violators because we don’t have the necessary authority. Such drivers are usually gatecrashers. It is considered to be a severe traffic violation, and we classify it as an auto accident. We can’t stop the car, but we transfer all the data – video recordings and car numbers – to the Traffic Police. The driver will be fined or lose his/her license. 
Actually, there are fewer gatecrashers now, since the plastic auto barriers were replaced with a metal one at all the toll plazas. Also, the laws have changed, and people who flee the scene of the accident are now punished more severely.

- Does it ever happen that customers pay you with counterfeit money?
- Fortunately, I have never had such a situation in all my experience in UTS. However, we have special equipment for this occasion: a special banknote detector and UV scanner. During the training, we learn how to use them and what type of situations needs checking the banknote. 
At the 214 km toll plaza, it is even easier, because the process is automated: they have an automated cash receiver with a built-in detector. It simply doesn't accept counterfeit money.

- Do you have regular customers? Do they recognize you or your colleagues?
- Yes, we do. Usually, they are truck drivers. They often ride our road and know almost everybody here. Some of them wish us happy holidays, pay us compliments. It is the most pleasant part of our job. 

- Every day you meet hundreds of people. Have you ever met somebody famous or just extraordinary?
- Yes, it happens sometimes. Highways are popular among both state officers and celebrities, such as actors of the theatre and cinema or musicians. The Governor of the Tver Oblast often passes through our toll plaza. Nevertheless, we always provide the best service for every customer. We welcome governors as any other road user.