2014 US Trucking News – Florida SunPass Faces Overcharging Lawsuit
A Florida car hauler has filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation’s toll collection agency, SunPass.
A SunPass is a type of electronic device that attaches to a driver’s windshield, allowing him to pass through assigned SunPass, E-Pass, and O-Pass lanes. The tolls are automatically taken from a prepaid account. It is not necessary to have the precise amount of change, or wait for the tollbooth operator to hand him change. SunPass lets the drivers cruise by speeds of up to 25 MPH while others wait in the cash lines.
Once it is attached to the windshield, the transponder sends out a radio signal to sensors mounted on the SunPass toll lanes. Immediately, the transponder transmits the correct toll amount and subtracts it from the driver’s prepaid account.
The original transponder has three lights – Red, yellow, and green. It also comes with an audio buzzer. Certain pairings of the lights and sounds let drivers know when a toll is paid, when his balance is low, or when the transponder requires new batteries.
The latest transponder, the SunPass Mini, does not require any batteries and also does not have lights, or give off beeping sounds. This transponder, which is about the same size and thinness as a credit card, sticks to the windshield and cannot be transferred from one vehicle, to another.
Transponders and the SunPass Mini only works when they are connected to glass windshields. They are not designed for use on motorcycles.
Drivers can use their SunPass Portable personal transponder on other vehicles, given that they have the same number of axles, and as long as the vehicle and license plates are written on his account information. Transponders issued to commercial accounts can be changed between vehicles, despite of the type of vehicle or axle count. And for the driver’s convenience, the SunPass Portable transponders can also be effortlessly moved from one car to another. But all vehicles and license plates should be listed on the driver’s account information.
The SunPass Mini Sticker transponder should be attached permanently to the windshield of one vehicle. When it is connected, the SunPass Mini Sticker transponder should not be removed from the windshield, since it will get damaged in the process. Removal of or making an attempt to get rid of a SunPass Mini Sticker Transponder from the vehicle windshield will make the unit ineffective.
SunPass will also save the driver time and money when driving on all toll roads, and most bridges in Florida. SunPass clients pay for the cheapest tolls available, since SunPass toll rates are lower than cash and TOLL-BY-PLATE rates.
The SunPass Violations Enforcement System was also made to track down violators on Florida toll roads, to maximize collection of toll revenues. Florida State Law needs payment of prescribed tolls for the usage of toll facilities. Failure to obey with this statute will be charged a $100 or more civil penalty, evaluation of court costs, and deferral of the driver’s vehicle registration, and even the deferral of his driver’s license.
TOLL-BY-PLATE is an image-based electronic toll collection system which uses photographic images of the vehicle’s license plate, to recognize the client responsible for payment. This is similar to SunPass’ electronic toll collection system, but without a transponder device. TOLL-BY-PLATE gives the extra convenience of never having to slow down, or stop to pay a toll for infrequent users of the Turnpike.
John Northrup, who is doing business as Angie’s Transportation out of Plant City, Florida, wants to get back unwarranted tolls charged under FDOT’s SunPass system. This is according to the lawsuit that was filed on February 21st in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit for Leon County, Florida.
Aside from financial reimbursement, Northrup also wants to find declaratory and injunctive relief for violation of contract by the named defendants – The Florida Department of Transportation, and FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad in his official capacity.
Northrup, who is a member of OOIDA and the vice president of Angie’s Transportation, owns and operates a five-axle car hauler. In 2013, he mentioned to Land Line magazine that lots of charges for six, seven, eight, and even nine axles have made an appearance on his SunPass statements.
In return, SunPass customer service has told Northrup that the charges could have come from somebody who was tailgating him through a toll booth, but the speculations differed depending on who Northrup was speaking with.
A representative told him that his truck was possibly overweight – Still not accounting for the axle inconsistency – While another told him that the car carrier itself was causing a potential error.
The plaintiff said in a lawsuit that FDOT’s gear and equipment are malfunctioning, and constantly spots more axles than a vehicle usually has, which ends up in FDOT swindling drivers in defiance of the SunPass Customer Agreement, at those toll stations which charge bigger tolls to vehicles that have more axles.
Northrup has given examples of being charged with an extra $1 for the sixth axle, while driving his five-axle vehicle. He knows that thousands, or maybe millions of clients are getting overcharged in one way or another.
Stephen Turner, the plaintiff and attorney of Broad and Cassel of Tallahassee, is looking for class-action status for the lawsuit. He says that this supposed overcharging is not just applied to trucks.
Northrup’s own vehicle, which has two axles, has been charged a three-axle rate on different instances, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that FDOT is aware of these mistakes for a couple of years, but they have purposely refused to correct them. Notwithstanding FDOT’s knowledge, FDOT still persists to overcharge their clients in this similar manner.
The lawsuit would force FDOT to pay their refunds, and correct the reason for these overcharges.
The lawsuit also disputes FDOT’s procedure of refunding only 90 days worth of unacceptably charged fees. Northrup, whose overcharges go back to more than a year, is confident that clients are allowed to get back all of their improperly charged fees.
In 2013, a spokeswoman told Land Line that SunPass and FDOT treat each complaint on a case-by-case, customer-by-customer basis. Meanwhile, the toll agency has not yet given a formal response to the lawsuit.