By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the June 1 print edition of Transport Topics.
Officials in Maine said they have grown weary of Canadian truckers traveling the Maine Turnpike on their way to U.S. East Coast markets without paying tolls.
As a result, a bill that would ban scofflaw Canadian truckers, most of them based in New Brunswick province, from traveling on Maine highways is winding through the Legislature.
L.D. 987, sponsored by Rep. Andrew McLean (D), would authorize Maine’s secretary of state to track down, send a bill and ultimately allow Maine police officers who stop toll scofflaws for speeding or catch them at weigh scales to immediately put their vehicles out of service.
“Every year, the Maine Turnpike loses a significant amount of money from Canadian motorists who do not pay tolls,” said McLean, chairman of the state House-Senate joint committee on transportation. “They scoot through and while we can access their license plate, there is no recourse for collecting those tolls.”
The bill was unanimously approved by the committee May 15 and is “all but certain to pass” both legislative chambers, Peter Mills, executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, told Transport Topics.
“It gives us a pathway to enforcement that’s been lacking,” Mills said.
The turnpike already has a contract with the bordering states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, allowing officials to track down and suspend the registrations of toll violators, Mills said.
However, the bureau of motor vehicles in New Brunswick will not tell Maine officials the owners or addresses of trucks identified as toll-dodgers, Mills said.
Mills said that hundreds of motorists from New Brunswick use the turnpike but don’t pay tolls.
Although commercial vehicles only accounted for less than 10% of the 75.5 million trips on the turnpike in 2014, they totaled more than 33% of the $123.6 million toll revenues, according to the turnpike authority records.
From October through April, there were nearly 900 toll violations totaling $4,500, just from the top 20 New Brunswick truckers, said Erin Courtney, a turnpike spokeswoman.
The turnpike runs for 109 miles on Interstate 95 between Kittery and Augusta. The toll for 6-axle trucks to travel the entire length of the turnpike currently is $31.55.
“We’re actively watching the legislation, because it impacts the trucking industry,” Brian Parke, CEO of the Maine Motor Transport Association, told TT. “Those that don’t pay get spread out among those that do.”
Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, whose members include New Brunswick truckers, said he only recently became aware of the problem and is working with officials in Maine to help stop toll cheaters.
“Obviously we want to help Maine enforce that,” Picard told TT. “Whoever is at fault, they should make them pay and come down hard on them. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t pay like everybody else.”