State officials might start cooperating with neighboring states on a plan to force habitual toll evaders to pay up by suspending their vehicle registrations – for tabs they’ve run up in states other than where they live.

A bill that has been advanced by the Senate and Assembly transportation committees would expand the list of agencies that can suspend a registration. It would cover every agency involving New Jersey and allow reciprocal agreements with Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York.

William Shanahan, director of government relations and grants administration for the Delaware River Port Authority, said E-ZPass is a great convenience but gets abused – by people who don’t pay their bills or use the lanes even though they don’t have electronic tolling accounts.

“Although it’s a small percent of the drivers out there, it adds up to millions of dollars a year for each individual tolling agency,” Shanahan said.

Pennsylvania has already adopted the legislation allowing a reciprocal agreement, Shanahan said. Delaware and New York have not yet done so, he said.

Shanahan said the intention is for the cross-state suspensions to only begin after a person accumulates at $600 in unpaid tolls, though that is clearly specified in the legislation.

“What a minimum does is stop any kind of action on somebody who just, their credit card expired or they missed the wrong lane or they forgot to make a payment last month,” Shanahan said. “The cost of that would be more than trying to get a $30 fee out of somebody for this.”

“Before any state action occurs, they have to hit that minimum $600,” he said. “So I think that protects the small, the de minimis, mistakes that are made on a daily basis. Sometimes, we all forget.”

The enforcement mechanism mentioned most frequently in the bill is the prospect for having states suspend a vehicle registration for out-of-state drivers. But another section of the bill also mentions driver’s licenses, and Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, said he has concerns about that.

“I was recently talking to somebody who owns a trucking company, and he said regularly he has problems with the EZ-Pass with his drivers. And even though he pays them all the time, for some reason they don’t register,” Diegnan said. “So a person’s going to get their driving privileges suspended, it’s a little scary.”

Shanahan said the license suspension doesn’t need to be in the bill, as that isn’t in the law in Pennsylvania. But the phrase remained in the bill when it was advanced in the Assembly in September.

Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer, said lawmakers have been working with the Murphy administration on the bill and its amendments.

“We wanted to make sure that folks’ rights are protected, as well as this can’t be abused in terms of large amounts of fines or suspensions in those cases,” Benson said.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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