Government demands implementation of Pix in tolls, but concessionaires consider it unfeasible

Government demands implementation of Pix in tolls, but concessionaires consider it unfeasible
Government demands implementation of Pix in tolls, but concessionaires consider it unfeasible

BRASILIA – THE Ministry of Transport established in an ordinance that toll plazas on federal highways must, from June this year, offer payment options via Pix and debit and credit cards. However, the internal assessment of the concessionaires is that the technical challenges, mainly for the Pixwill make the government directive have a limited effect, with no prospect of a deadline for it to become reality.

The ordinance, published on the 8th, provides that the detailing of the rules will be done by National Land Transport Agency (ANTT)which should, for example, define the minimum number of booths to be equipped for Pix in each square.

In the text, the Ministry of Transport says that it is necessary to make alternatives available “ensuring efficiency and practicality in charging fares”. However, one of the sector’s previous diagnoses is that the new modality could represent an increase in costs and time for drivers.

The country has 26 federal highway concessions, which together total 174 toll plazas. Of these, only three already allow the option to pay via Pix, all of which are on BR-163, a grain flow corridor managed by Via Brasil.

Internet signal for toll booths in rural areas is a problem for pix implementation Photograph: ALEX SILVA / ESTADÃO

Payment by credit and debit card is more widespread. According to data from the Brazilian Association of Highway Concessionaires (ABCR), among its 21 associated federal concessionaires, 85% offer a debit option and 54% accept credit.

“The difference is that Pix carries a set of practical challenges”, says one of the representatives consulted by the report, who asked not to be identified. Caution is taken so that the positions do not create hasty clashes with the federal government before the ANTT’s final definitions.

“The idea was created that concessionaires are averse to electronic payments for hidden reasons. The issue is technical and cost”, says a manager at one of the dealerships. According to the same representative, the expectation is that, given the obstacles, ANTT will establish technical filters that should limit the mandatory adoption of Pix.

The first challenge cited by concessionaires – and the one with the greatest technical weight – is connection to internet and telephone networks. In some of the squares located in rural areas, the signal is limited or non-existent. For payment with cards, the problem can be overcome using wired internet networks that reach the cabins. Pix requires that the driver is also connected to the internet.

For everyone to be connected via the mobile network, there must be a telephone signal from all operators – far from the current coverage scenario. In an interview with Estadão/Broadcast a week after the announcement of the ordinance, the Minister of Transport, Renan Filho, said that this problem can be overcome with the availability of a Wi-Fi signal at toll plazas for drivers who choose to pay with the Pix.

However, sharing a Wi-Fi signal with drivers, which can be thought of through the installation of satellite networks, is an obligation that is not provided for in concession contracts prior to 2022 (90% of current ones).

Therefore, if this is the path defined by ANTT, the concessionaires say they will demand renegotiation of their contracts to include the new costs. They also argue that the installation of this infrastructure would require studies to assess its real applicability.

“Reality will tend to impose itself. One of the possibilities is that ANTT limits the Pix obligation to places that already have a telephone signal”, says a member of the sector. Another alternative, he assesses, is for the regulatory agency to establish periods of Pix operating tests in some of the squares and, only after a determined period, with impact data, extend it to the others.

Even after overcoming the connectivity challenge, whether for plazas with a mobile phone signal or in a scenario where drivers access Wi-Fi, concessionaires say that Pix could still be a problem. This time, due to the increase in queues. “If everyone decides to pay for Pix, what will it look like?”, asks a representative based on the indication in the Ministry of Transport’s ordinance that not all cabins should be equipped with the new option.

In addition to the possible concentration in booths with Pix, another slow factor would be the payment process itself. The sector calculates that, on average, service at a toll booth lasts 12 seconds between the start of service and the release of the gate. The transaction via Pix, according to calculations made by one of the representatives, would take at least 40 seconds.

“The driver must first connect to the internet, then open the app, find the Pix tool and only then confirm and finish”, explains a member of the sector about the steps that could result in slow queues. “The fear is that the large-scale adoption of Pix will turn against the driver, who will suffer from the fluidity of the highways”, says another sector representative.

For lawyer Lucas Hellmann, a specialist in public contracts at Schiefler Advocacia, even though the tendency for this scenario is to increase queues, it is possible that the practice will be different. “User behavior is unpredictable. The natural aversion to queuing can prompt the adoption of faster methods such as automatic payment tags,” he says.

The last major obstacle in the dealerships’ view is costs. In addition to spending on possible Wi-Fi network installations, one of the concessionaires states that banks charge ten cents per transaction to confirm payments via Pix.

“It will be important for the government to exercise caution and be judicious when evaluating requests for economic-financial rebalancing, ensuring that the new requirements do not result in ‘courtesies with someone else’s hat’, that is, benefits to the user that unduly burden companies without due compensation ”, assesses Hellmann.

As per article 37, item XXI of the Constitution, concessionaires are assured that the conditions of the proposal that gave rise to the contract will be maintained. Given the increase in obligations, the contract must be renegotiated.

Therefore, the extra cost that will initially be borne by companies can be passed on to users, which includes possible tariff increases. “The direct or indirect action of the government that impacts the concession creates an imbalance that must be compensated/compensated. Ultimately, it is the taxpayer who will pay the bill”, says lawyer Rodrigo Figueiredo, partner at RVF Advogados.

For dealership representatives, the best way to move forward with automatic payment would be through tags. The service is offered by companies without direct links to the concessionaires, but which establish partnerships with them.

To use it, the driver must purchase a QR Code sticker, which costs the price of the chosen recharge. The sticker is placed on the windshield and becomes permanent to be automatically recognized in cabins. There are monthly plan options that can make the toll cost cheaper.

A survey by EcoRodovias, operator of road concessions with the largest network in the country, shows that payments with tags among passenger vehicles jumped from 41% in 2020 to 54% in 2023 in its dealership network.

“In addition to increasing road safety, using the tag allows the driver to save time on the trip and save fuel by not having to decelerate and accelerate the vehicle when passing through the toll plaza, also bringing environmental gains with the reduction in CO2 emissions. . The use of technology also means that the driver does not have to worry about withdrawing money before traveling”, says the dealership.

In a note, the National Land Transport Agency (ANTT) says that, at this time, it is not yet possible to comment on the matter and advance rules on toll collection for instant payment.

“The agency highlights that the technical team will continue the procedure in order to meet the deadlines established in the ordinance. Information about the standards will be widely disseminated to concessionaires and the population when completed”, he states in a note.

Arteris, a group that holds five federal highway concessions, says that its concessionaires were consulted by ANTT and are identifying the technical and regulatory needs for using PIX in tolls and will respond to ANTT within the requested deadline.

CCR, which manages four federal highway concessions, says it is awaiting the entry into force of the ordinance so that the issue can be addressed jointly with ANTT. Triunfo Concebra, which manages two concessions, says it is also awaiting ANTT.

For the CEO of ABCR, Marco Aurélio Barcelos, the Ministry of Transport fulfilled its role of promoting the policy of expanding the adoption of Pix on highways. “What we need now is to evaluate the technical means for this to become a reality. This is what we will seek to do together with ANTT within the deadline of the ordinance”, says Barcelos.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Government demands implementation Pix tolls concessionaires unfeasible



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