NTTA Will Soon Have the Power to Block Vehicle Registrations and Impound Cars

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The North Texas Tollway Authority has been taking an increasingly punitive approach to chasing down toll scofflaws. First came the public shaming, then the lawsuits. Now, it could start impounding cars.

A bill to give the NTTA the power to block vehicle registrations and ban cars from its tollways (this is where the impoundment comes in) has sailed through the Texas House. It still needs a final OK from the Senate and Governor Perry's signature, but those are both formalities at this point. The Senate passed an almost identical version last month by a vote of 29-1.

The legislation limits the NTTA to going after drivers who have 100 or more unpaid tolls, which, you probably won't be surprised to learn, includes a quite a few people. Senator Kirk Watson, the Austin Democrat who authored the bill, notes that more than 100,000 drivers in North Texas have taken that many unauthorized trips, costing the NTTA more than $48 million since 2010. Eighty percent of those drivers use the tollroads daily.

So a lot of Dallas drivers could soon find themselves unable to renew their vehicle registration. It shouldn't come as a surprise, since the bill requires NTTA to send multiple notices and sets out an appeals process, but it probably will. If you've racked hundreds of dollars in tolls, you already probably ignore the NTTA envelopes that fill your mailbox.

I've emailed an NTTA spokesman to see if the agency has plans for how it will handle its new powers. When it started filing lawsuits, it picked a relatively small number of people more or less at random. Of course, blocking registrations and banning cars are cheap and easy by comparison. Expect a lot more people to be affected.

Update at 2:28 p.m.: NTTA spokesman says he thinks the 100,000-plus number cited by Watson is a bit high. The NTTA list has only about 75,000 people who owe $51 million.

He issued the following statement to address the other questions:

At this point we are waiting to see what shape the bill takes in its final form if/when it is passed. The NTTA will consult with JPs, tax assessors and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to determine the number of registration blocks that will not to hamper their day to day proceedings.

Let's remember the goal of all dealings with scofflaws is to get people who chose the option of using the roadway to now pay their tolls. It would be far better for customers who have outstanding tolls to contact the NTTA to pay or work out a payment plan. If top violators will agree to get a TollTag, outstanding administrative fees can be negotiated downward considerably.

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18 comments
Americano
Americano

Is the NTTA now a law enforcement agency?  If they can take your car, why not your house too?


roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

The NTTA always seem to wait 90 days until they bill you and charge you for having not payed it earlier.   Fact is the people of Dallas let NTTA walk all over them.  They seem to enjoy the pain.  Why did you allow them to remove the manned toll booths?  You should have at least one at every gantry.  Or at least one where you can pay by coins.  If you cannot pay at the time of service then you should not have to pay at all.  Just because NTTA want to be cheap ass is no excuse   Of course they have lots of money to bribe your politicians, but then you let them get away with it.  

Don_O
Don_O

NTTA's zip cash system is a mess.  I was hit by a collection agency even though NTTA never sent me the billing and follow up notices they were required to send.  After 2+ hours on the phone with NTTA they allowed me to just pay the tolls and took away all the add on fees.  The supervisor I finally talked to admitted, "yeah, we have been having a lot of problems with zip cash." 

Funny thing is, the Texas Tollways system down around Austin has an excellent system and has never messed up once.  No one ever seems to notice that there are 3 different tollway systems in this state and they all have their own capture and collection methods.  It is incredibly inefficient and costly and we are paying for 3 different systems. Why? 

sunnyB
sunnyB

this is an overreach for sure. absolutely disgusted it passed so quickly.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

I don't have a problem with this so long as the NTTA gets it right.  Some how I have about as much faith in the NTTA with these new powers as a giving a baby a hand grenade to play with. A side note if you sell a car to an individual this might be further incentive to pull the license plates and carefully document the sale.  Likewise if you buy a used car from private seller it might be wise to check whether it has some NTTA entanglements.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

They can take my car even if one of my guns is in it?

PersistentID2345
PersistentID2345

@roadsidecouchI noticed that the NTTA due dates are inconsistent each month on their bills. This practice was outlawed in the credit card industry. From the consumerfinance.gov website:

"Background: Prior to the enactment of the CARD Act, there were a variety of practices that could cause a cardholder to be assessed a late fee.  Often, those fees were disproportionate to the harm or risk resulting from the cardholder’s action.  The CARD Act took a number of steps to curb excessive or unfair fees:

Credit card bills must be due on the same date each month....."

I noticed the problem with the NTTA due dates a few months ago so I doubt that it has been fixed. This impoundment bill should not be passed until the NTTA is held to fixed due dates so folks aren't jacked around because the NTTA can't get their $&^% together.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@roadsidecouch Giving what amounts police powers to a private (corrupt) organization - What could possibly go wrong?

"Any organization that has five CEO's in five years and three general counsels in five years is an organization in crisis. I was concerned about their board leadership and I was also concerned about their legacy contracts that they hadn't put out for bid in a long, long time. And finally when they put them out for bid there was intense lobbying that occurred so the legacy contractors stayed in place."

http://keranews.org/post/possible-ntta-firing-revives-concerns-over-secrecy


ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@WhiteWhale @Americano They'd have to fight your local government first in case you dont pay your property tax, and then you homeowners association in case you dont pay your dues.   They both claim rights to your property over the NTTA lol

ryan762
ryan762

@ScottsMerkin @WhiteWhale When my wife bought her most recent new car back in December, the dealership removed the license plates from her trade-in and told her to take them with her.

She thought this was strange since no dealer has ever done that before, so she asked and they said it's because they had a rash of people claiming that they were getting bills from the NTTA after they'd traded in their cars to the dealership

Of course, I don't know what happens when a person drives through a toll booth with temporary plates on the car.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@ScottsMerkin@WhiteWhaleTrue and that has saved me some grief in the past.  According yo the DMV - "If you submit a transfer notification within 30 days of sale, the buyer shown becomes the vehicle's presumed owner and may be subject to criminal or civil liability for parking tickets, toll violations, fines or other penalties that occur after the date of sale."  The operative word is 'may'.  You are still the owner of record until until a new title is applied for and issued to the new owner.  Which means that even though you have a defense, you are still on the hook for the time and effort to deal with any messes.  I have sold cars with the plates and registration sticker in the past but I would never do it again.  No plates or registration sticker means that the buyer has motivation re title.

Double-O-Joe
Double-O-Joe

@ScottsMerkin @ryan762 @WhiteWhale  

I'm driving a new car with temp plates right now, and I'm curious to see if I get any bills.  Can't very well call the NTTA and change my billing info without real plates, can I?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@ryan762 @WhiteWhale I recently bought a new used car.  I bought a lease return that had no plates.  They issued me temporaries, I drove the 161 Toll 3 weeks in a row and ran a couple of redlight camera intersections.  Never got a bill in the mail

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