HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is heralding the passage of Pennsylvania House Bill 1486, which includes language from former House Bill 2139 that will strengthen the Commission’s ongoing efforts to hold accountable those customers who do not pay their tolls.
The legislation, which was passed by the Senate with House concurrence, lowers the thresholds that trigger registration suspensions for Pennsylvania vehicle owners with unpaid tolls and fees from $500 to $250.
“I want to thank members of the general assembly for their support and cooperation on this important measure,” PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said. “The fact is that uncollected tolls are largely due to drivers dodging their responsibilities. These customers receive invoices but simply choose not to pay. This legislation will allow us to better hold accountable those who intentionally cheat the system.”
Under Act 165 of 2016, the PA Turnpike has been working with PennDOT to suspend motor-vehicle registrations of Pennsylvania owners with unpaid tolls and fees exceeding a fixed number or dollar value. As of Sept. 30, the Commission has collected $11,438,495 in toll and fees associated with 23,095 suspended registrations under Act 165.
Once signed into law, HB 1486 will update the criteria that prompt vehicle-registration suspensions as follows:
- it would lower the dollar threshold from $500 to $250 in unpaid tolls and fees.
- it would lower the number of unpaid Toll By Plate invoices or violations from six to four.
- it would extend the statute of limitations for unpaid invoices or violations from 3 to 5 years.
Compton noted that, while most customers do the right thing and pay on time, this new measure enables the Turnpike to more quickly trigger the processes to collect from people who flout responsibility by choosing not to pay.
“We need to pursue nonpaying drivers before their toll obligation exceeds the $500 mark and potentially hampers their ability to pay up,” Compton said. “Five-plus years of experience have shown that it is better to act sooner to maximize chances of collecting from those who think it is OK to ride free. We are here to tell you, it isn’t.”
The legislation will take effect 60 days after it is signed into law. The Turnpike estimates that 25,000 additional vehicle registrations would qualify for suspension due to unpaid toll invoices. If convicted, penalties for operating a vehicle with a suspended registration may include:
- A mandatory, three-month driver’s license suspension.
- Fines of up to $500 plus court costs.
- Higher auto-insurance rates.
- A record of the violation on the offender’s driver history.
“This measure is an essential step in the right direction, and we are confident the change will hold drivers more accountable and boost collections,” Compton said. “But we are not stopping here. We continue to evaluate revenue collections and loss-prevention best practices in and outside the tolling industry to add tools to our revenue-assurance toolbox.”
If the initial Toll By Plate invoice is not paid or resolved within 30 days, a past-due invoice is mailed. Past-due invoices include a late fee of $5 or 1.5% of the amount owed, whichever is higher. Invoices unpaid after 60 days go to collections. Beyond that, the PA Turnpike executes other collection measures, including:
- Working with local district attorneys to file criminal charges against egregious scofflaws.
- Filing civil charges against those with unpaid tolls up to $12,500 as well as filing civil and criminal lawsuits against commercial carriers.
- Engaging neighboring toll agencies on reciprocity to provide mutual authority to pursue scofflaws in other states.
In addition to stronger enforcement, the PA Turnpike has made it easier for customers to pay, according to the Commission.
It partnered with a nationwide cash payment network, enabling customers to use cash to pay invoices and replenish E-ZPass accounts at 70,000 drug, convenience, and discount stores. A recent upgrade of the Turnpike’s Toll By Plate invoice includes a convenient, new QR code customers can scan to pay right from their devices.
“Today, we offer E-ZPass and Toll By Plate customers six ways to pay: by mail, by phone, online, using the PA TOLL PAY mobile app, through the cash-payment network, and by walk-in at our Harrisburg Customer Service Center,” Compton said. “E-ZPass remains the easiest, least-expensive way to pay on the PA Turnpike.”
Most customers pick up an E-ZPass GoPak at one of more than 700 retail locations across PA, including 7-Eleven stores inside Turnpike service plazas. In addition, customers who get a Toll By Plate invoice can convert to E-ZPass and save up to 60% on that invoice and on all PA Turnpike travel.
Besides these measures, the law also requires the Turnpike to notify customers when a “V-toll” is posted to an E-ZPass account.
A V-toll is a charge that occurs if the E-ZPass transponder was not read when the vehicle exited, but the license plate matched to an active E-ZPass account. In such cases, the Turnpike may not be able to determine the actual travel, so a flat toll of $10 for Class 1 and Class 2 vehicles is posted, appearing on the E-ZPass account statement as a “V-toll.”
“I’m pleased to report that, as of Aug. 4, we had already begun sending daily notifications to customers with V-tolls, thereby meeting this requirement months before the law’s effective date,” Compton said. “To avoid V-tolls, we remind E-ZPass customers to bring your E-ZPass transponder each time you travel the Turnpike and be sure it is properly mounted. Check your E-ZPass statement regularly to confirm that all account information is up to date including address, payment, and vehicle information.”
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