Commentary: Improving Delaware’s E-ZPass toll collection system

I had the opportunity to work on some legislation this past session that was the direct result of a concern raised by one of my constituents and neighbors. It seems they were facing an unusually hefty fine from the vendor who does E-ZPass’ collections. As you may be aware, E-ZPass is Delaware’s electronic toll collection system, which is managed by a third-party vendor.

The constituent who contacted my office was facing toll violations, administrative fees, and late fees in the amount of $10,000. I assure you that is not a typo and, yes, the charge was $10,000. In addition, it wasn’t until this individual went to the Division of Motor Vehicles to update their car registration that they were made aware of the exorbitant collection amount and, as a result, not permitted to renew their registration.

It was a case of the constituent not being properly notified about the original and subsequent violations, thereby causing the penalty fee for nonpayment to continue to go up. As many of us can probably imagine, the entire incident caused great distress while the mistake was being investigated.

Rep. Jeff Spiegelman

Thankfully, my legislative office is working with the Delaware Department of Transportation to assist the individual and to have the fee overages properly adjusted.

The incident raised additional questions for me, though, as I wondered how many other Delawareans had similar experiences. I quickly learned that my constituent had not been the only person to face a troubling experience with the outside vendor E-ZPass uses to administer all toll transactions – Transcore.

DelDOT was also logging an increased number of constituent complaints over outstanding toll violations and the lack of prior notification to the individuals being charged.

As a result, a House resolution was crafted to address these concerns. Rep. Paul Baumbach of Newark and I, along with several other lawmakers, sponsored House Resolution 15. The measure directs DelDOT, as the department overseeing E-ZPass operations, to review and make improvements to the administrative process of collecting violation fees.

Because it is vital that the vendor — in this case, Transcore — ensures proper notification to customers of any and all violations, the resolution says the vendor is required to use the most up-to-date and accurate customer contact information when sending out toll violations and other account information to ensure a timely response and compliance. According to the resolution, DelDOT is directed to reconcile address information with the most up-to-date record on file at DMV.

HR 15 further states that Transcore must also make sure that all notices “clearly outline and explain all of the charges associated with any toll violation and failure to pay consequences.”

The resolution requires that DelDOT report back to the General Assembly on the improvements being made to the overall system by January 2020.

Given that more than 70 million toll transactions occur annually on Delaware roadways, with nearly three-quarters of that amount utilizing E-ZPass, it is imperative that we sufficiently address these concerns in a timely manner. Many thanks to the Department of Transportation and DelDOT Secretary Cohan for acknowledging the shortcomings of the recent issues with the vendor and committing to Rep. Baumbach and me that corrective action will be taken.

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, represents the 11th District, which covers all or parts of Marydel, Hartly, Kenton, Clayton, Townsend and Middletown.

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