Ohio Turnpike system fix heads off trucker toll cheating
Trucks roll through Olmsted Township on the Ohio Turnpike. Using a "classic ticket swap," truckers gamed the turnpike fare machines to save up to $40 a trip across the 241-mile toll road. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
The Associated Press
BEREA, Ohio — The Ohio Turnpike has put a stop to an estimated $50,000-a-year scam involving truck drivers who managed to duck part of their tolls.
Truckers cheated automated fare machines to save up to $40 a trip across the 241-mile toll road, says David Miller, the turnpike's director of audit and internal control.
Turnpike officials told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer that the turnpike updated its toll-collecting system in July to deter the scam.
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The machines now charge drivers a full, cross-state toll if a ticket shows they traveled only a few exits but entered the turnpike many hours before, Executive Director Richard Hodges said Monday.
The scam worked this way: A trucker taking a ticket at the turnpike's entry near Indiana would travel across Ohio and claim the ticket was lost when he hit the last interchange before Pennsylvania.
The trucker would pay $44 for the "lost" ticket, the same he'd pay if he had turned in the ticket. After delivering his load to the east, the trucker would head back on the turnpike.
Instead of crossing the state and paying another $44, the trucker would leave the turnpike several exits before the Indiana border and feed the "lost" ticket to an automated fare machine. Toll tickets don't designate east or west travel.
To the machine, the trucker had traveled only a short distance from the Indiana border and would pay, depending on the exit, a toll less than $10, turnpike officials said.
Toll collectors are trained to pick up on the scam by noting excessive time — 24 hours or more — between the truck entry and exit.
A number of interchanges in western Ohio no longer have manned toll booths and one year ago officials noticed the number of tickets showing short trips, but long durations, were on the rise at unmanned exits, Miller said.
The staff counted hundreds of questionable toll tickets over six months, Miller said. One ticket showed a time lapse of 11 months between entry and exit.
In July, the turnpike fixed the system so that truckers must pay a full, cross-state fare if they exceed a certain time limit between entry and exit on the toll road. Hodges did not want to publicize the time limit to avoid tipping truckers who like to game the system.
Hodges said the fix is working and the number of questionable tickets is declining.
"There's drivers out there who would do anything to save a buck," said Victor Kislyanka, 21, of Sacramento, Calif., who stopped his rig at a Richfield truck stop near the turnpike and Interstate 77.
"I personally don't understand it."
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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