Every once in a while we at CRI like to think about economic freedom issues that don’t directly relate to our mission. One such story which showed up in our chilly, soon-to-be-snow-covered inboxes is this one on DelDOT helping the Newark Police patrol the roads near Exit 1 and the Maryland border (route 896, Christiana Parkway, Route 40) where some truckers have been known to exit the highway and then rejoin I-95 about 2 miles away without paying the toll.
Barring the unusual traffic delay this move adds maybe 10 minutes to one’s commute in exchange for saving $4 in tolls. Clearly a large number of truckers believe adding 10 minutes to their commute is worth saving $4 for. So how does the state respond? by hiring more “enhanced” enforcement of toll evasion by heavy trucks and commercial vehicles along Newark-area routes restricted to local deliveries only. The enforcement will be more infrequent but they will reserve power to pull trucks over and check the drivers’ records to make sure they are on local roads on their way to make a local delivery.
Now from a locals’ point of view, trucks block lanes, wear down roads, and slow down normal traffic flow, all so a trucker can save $4 in toll fees. It should not surprise anyone then that keeping trucks who are not making local deliveries off the roads would be popular in the Newark area where this is occurring. From the article:
“During the first two months of patrols in November and December, state troopers and Newark officers conducted 386 total inspections, according to DelDOT.
Police took at least five trucks and nine drivers out of service due to violations in that time, said DelDOT’s Brian Motyl, assistant director of finance. Overall, they issued 179 citations, including weight, equipment, licensing and registration-related issues. Data for January was not yet available.”
That’s a lot of inspections! Over six a day, holidays included. There were nearly three citations issued a day. Each citation carries a fine ranging from $77-$95 and two points on the driver’s license. DelDOT says it’s spent $60,000 through January 31 on the enhanced enforcement; using the $95 fines for every citation issued, the state took in $17,005. That’s a loss of roughly $43,000 going by the math alone, and that’s if every ticket issued was for the maximum amount. On the other side getting heavy trucks off local roads might save money on construction repairs since heavier truck usage requires more repair work done but given New Castle County’s astronomically high Prevailing Wage rates any savings from fewer repairs would be wiped out by the PW and the cost of enforcing this program long-term.
We can safely conclude using this enforcement is costing the state more money than it takes in from citations or from forcing these “toll dodgers” to pay $4 at the toll booth. The article mentions an uptick in tolls collected from commercial traffic but notes tolls collected from larger vehicles has been down for some time. Now the enforcement campaign could pressure truckers to pay $4 rather than risk a $95 fine and points on the license might scare some truckers into staying on the highway, but now we move into the morality: is this way of enforcing laws an aspect of a free society? Having police do random checks for papers to make sure you comply with the local ordinance? Suppose the state lowered the toll to $2. Might that discourage all but the most toll-evading of truckers to just pay $2 rather than dodge the tolls, a move which would save the state tens of thousands of dollars on road repairs and enforcement?
Let’s hear your thoughts: Do you support this enhanced enforcement program? Or should the state try alternative means to discourage truckers from leaving the highways?