Ohio Turnpike nips toll-ticket scam

Aug. 21, 2012

A “ticket swap” scam by which truckers were bilking the Ohio Turnpike automated toll payment machines of some $50,000 a year has been nipped in the bud, according to toll officials who said they tweaked the automated toll system to stop the theft.

In a Plain Dealer story, David Miller, the turnpike’s director of audit and internal control, said truck drivers were previously able to trick the system to save up to $40 a trip across the 241-mi. toll road.

According to toll officials, the ticket trick has been used by truckers to avoid paying full tolls for as long as the turnpike has existed.

Here’s how officials said it worked: A trucker takes a ticket at the turnpike’s entry near Indiana then travels across Ohio. The driver will then claim the ticket was lost when he hits the last turnpike interchange before Pennsylvania, paying a $44 lost ticket charge.

Then after delivering the load and returning east, the driver would feed the “lost” ticket into the automated toll machine a few exits before the Indiana border. The machine would show the driver only traveled a few miles because the tickets don’t designate east or west travel. Depending on the exit used, a toll of less than $10 was then charged to the trucker.

The machines will now charge drivers a full, cross-state toll if a ticket shows they traveled only a few exits but entered the turnpike many hours before, Richard Hodges, executive director of the Turnpike said.

Hodges told The Plain Dealer he didn’t want to publicize the time limit, fearing it would tip truckers who like to game the system. He said toll workers are reporting that the new system is working and cameras show some truckers backing up from gates, apparently chagrined to find the scam no longer works.

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