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CATA looks to overcome tollway transponder change

May 18, 2018
When the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority insisted in January that every vehicle traversing the state’s tollways have a transponder in the vehicle or face paying a toll’s cash rate, it posed a problem for dealers, some of whom have loaner fleets in excess of 200 vehicles.
Effective Jan. 1, the tollway authority said it no longer was enough to register many vehicles to a single transponder because it takes manpower to match a transponder-less vehicle to an account to charge for the toll. Without the change, said Shana Whitehead, the tollway’s chief of business systems, toll fees would have had to be raised for all motorists.
Some dealers said they had to hire additional staff to oversee transponder activity, including checking whether a transponder remained in the vehicle after a loan. And with fleet units turning over every few months, the transponders must be re-registered to another vehicle.
Besides the extra workload for the tollway authority to match transponder-less vehicles to an account, Whitehead said that, during winter months, it can be difficult to capture images of license plates on cars without a transponder, resulting in lost revenue for the authority.
Directors and staff of the CATA met with top officials of the tollway authority in early May to discuss how dealers can comply with the new mandate, short of equipping every car with a transponder. 
At the CATA board meeting on May 15, the directors agreed that the most sensible procedure for dealers would be to register any loaner vehicles to a single transponder but have customers consent to use their own transponders or pay the dealership for any tolls or red-light camera tickets amassed during a loan. Under such a procedure, the dealer’s maximum exposure for a missed toll fare is the cash rate.
If the transponders of both the dealer and the customer are in a car, Whitehead said there is a 60 percent to 70 percent chance they both would get dinged at a tollbooth.
For vehicles not associated with a transponder account, unpaid tolls can become a violation after seven days, and eventually may lead suspension of a vehicle’s registration.