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FOX43 Finds Out: New law means drivers could soon pay up after PA Turnpike misses out on millions in unpaid tolls

HARRISBURG, Pa — Thousands of drivers take the Pennsylvania Turnpike everyday. According to the Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo, most of those d...

HARRISBURG, Pa -- Thousands of drivers take the Pennsylvania Turnpike everyday.

According to the Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo, most of those drivers pay a toll, but not everyone follows the rules.

"Yes, we understand tolls are going up. That's not a reason to cheat on your tolls," said DeFebo

Back in October, the Turnpike released the list of 24 companies that the Turnpike says has failed to pay some pretty hefty fines and hundreds of violations.

"We think that you're an intentional cheat. You can't accidentally rack up that many violations."

Since the list has been public for a few months, 'FOX43 finds out' wanted to follow up to see if companies on top violators list have paid up.

We contacted all 24 companies and most didn't return our phone calls.

So, we traveled to New Jersey to talk in person with a few of the companies.

The top violator was listed as Green Coast Logistics out of South Plainfield, New Jersey.

According to the Turnpike Commission, Green Coast Logistics had more than 7,500 violations and owed more than $700,000.

So, we asked if that number seemed accurate.

The employee there referred FOX43 to the company's lawyer, who eventually told us that Green Coast Logistics and the Pennsylvania Turnpike reached a settlement back in December, after the list was released.

Neither the Turnpike or the lawyer would say how much that settlement was for.

We also stopped by Salson Dedicated, which was number four on the list.

The Turnpike commission said the company based in Newark, New Jersey had more than 214 violations and owed more than $50,000 dollars.

No one on site would talk to us.

Eventually, we got in contact with Salson's legal consultant.

He told FOX43 his records did not indicate the company owed the Turnpike anywhere near $56,000.

Then he sent us a long list of E-Zpass bills for Salson drivers, including several letters from the E-Zpass violation center in Harrisburg saying Salson was not responsible for some of its billed violations.

After we called Salson, Salson called the Turnpike Commission.

We're now told, the trucking company and the Turnpike are working on a settlement.

Again, neither party would tell us how much that settlement is for.

As for the other 22 companies on the list, the Turnpike would only tell us this:

"The conversations are on going with many of them, I don't know at this point if all of them have been successfully contacted. We have referred many of those cases to outside counsel," said DeFebo.

That`s why the Turnpike pushed for new legislation to go after toll cheats and a law was passed last year, shortly after the top 24 list was released.

Before that, DeFebo says driving through the E-Zpass lane without an E-Zpass was not even illegal.

"It was never against the law to drive through the toll plaza without paying your toll."

The new law goes into effect August 4th and it allows the Turnpike to put a lien against the registration of a vehicle that either has six toll violations or owes the turnpike more than $500.

Which means the driver wouldn't be able to re-register to sell the vehicle without paying the bills.

The law also allows the Turnpike Commission to work with other states to go after drivers outside of Pennsylvania too, but only if the other states agree.

"It would also allow New Jersey to pursue violators from Pennsylvania who owe the New Jersey turnpike authority."

And vice versa.

Until then, it's hard for the Turnpike to get that money back.

In total, DeFebo says the turnpike lost $5.4 million in unpaid tolls in 2015.

While that may seem like a large amount of money, it's about half a percent of the Turnpike's yearly revenue.

DeFebo thinks with the ability to start punishing drivers, that $5.4 million will decrease.

"I don't think the tolls will increase simply because of toll cheats."

We also reached out to some neighboring states to see if they would enter a reciprocal agreement with the Pennsylvania Turnpike to go after out of state drivers.

The only one state that confirmed it would be interested was Virginia.

The PA Turnpike spokesperson says there are talks with other states, but there's a slim change any agreement will be made by the time the new law goes into effect on August 4th.

Again, that means some of the remaining companies on that top violators list that are from out of state may not face and criminal charges or even be forced to pay unless the state that company is from agrees to work with the PA Turnpike to track down the cash.

Until then, the Turnpike is still out of the money.

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