Many of the trucking companies accused of cheating the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission out of tolls come from other states, the agency said Tuesday.
According to a list released Tuesday, 24 of the most egregious commercial toll violators each owe more than $20,000 in unpaid tolls and violations.
Together, those violators owe the turnpike more than $1.5 million in unpaid tolls and fees, turnpike Chairman Sean Logan said, with a single New Jersey trucking firm responsible for nearly $700,000.
All told, the trucking firms have collectively ignored more than 19,000 violations notices, officials said.
“Not surprisingly, most of the states in the top 10 are states with which Pennsylvania shares a border,” Logan said. “But many will be surprised that we have mailed toll violations to every U.S. state and territory, including Hawaii and Alaska.”
Ongoing struggles with debt and other financial obligations have put the commission in the headlines, and the rising number of drivers who don’t pay their tolls has only made the agency’s struggles worse.
Most of the drivers — about 99 percent — who use the Pennsylvania Turnpike pay their tolls, generating about $1 billion this year, according to a statistic recently cited by Turnpike CEO Mark Compton.
But a recent audit by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s office, which covered fiscal years 2014 to 2016, found that toll violations are increasing, however, causing the commission to write off $12 million to $20 million per year, he said, although the commission’s numbers differ.
“We aggressively pursue all violators and we have a strong and successful track record. But last year, we lost $5.4 million in uncollected revenues,” Logan said. “Each year, the number of violators and the revenue loss continues to climb as traffic and use of E-ZPass grows.”
While the agency can refer scofflaws to collection agencies, DePasquale and turnpike officials say the agency needs greater powers, including the ability to suspend a Pennsylvania vehicle’s registration until outstanding tolls and fees are paid — and reciprocity agreements with other states to pursue their drivers.
A Senate bill proposed by Senate Transportation Chairman John Rafferty, R-Montgomery County, and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny County, would give the turnpike such powers, and the commission supports the measure.
Of the top commercial violators, ten companies are from New Jersey and eight are from Pennsylvania, the commission said. There also are two trucking firms from Virginia and two from Arizona, and one each from Ohio and Illinois.
Top of the list is Green Coast Logistics LLC of South Plainfield, N.J., the commission says, and its 7,631 violations add up to $678,483.
A woman who answered the phone at Green Coast on Tuesday afternoon said she would relay a message to company officials regarding Business Journal questions.
“The fact that so many of the repeat violators are from out of state makes it plain that we need additional tools to collect,” Logan said. “It is just fundamentally unfair to expect Pennsylvanians to pay the freight for a company based in Arizona or anywhere else.”