Over $104 million in tolls generated from the Pennsylvania Turnpike went uncollected in 2020, according to a report from the Associated Press. An internal report filed in July and obtained by the AP revealed that 11 million out of the 170 million Turnpike rides, nearly 6.5 percent, went unpaid last year. The biggest reason? People just don’t pay the charges.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike switched to a purely automated toll collection system last year, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of those 170 million rides, about 145 million—93 percent—are paid by motorists using the electronic E-Z Pass system. The other seven percent are billed via “toll-by-plate,” which uses cameras to take pictures of license plates, and bill motorists through the mail.
At 6.7 million rides, the biggest hit for collections comes from motorists who are billed but simply do not pay. The uncollected fees are written off by the Turnpike after three years. The state set up a system in 2017 that suspends PA registrations for six or more unpaid toll violations, but has yet to implement a system to similarly penalize drivers from out of state. According to AP, Pennsylvania is working on agreements with Delaware and New York to install such a penalty system.
Other reasons for the Turnpike missing out on toll payments? A total of 1.8 million rides went unpaid because license plates could not be identified. Roughly 41 percent of those failures were blamed on obstruction to the plate, such as a bike rack or trailer. Just 1.1 percent of obstructed plates were blamed on motorists intentionally blocking their plates from view. Another 1.5 million tolls went uncollected because motor vehicle agencies failed to provide addresses for vehicle owners. And in just over 1 million instances, bills sent out via the toll-by-plate system went undeliverable.
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