Records show SunPass over bills truckers - WNCN: News, Weather

Records show SunPass over bills truckers

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L.B. Haney's rig has 5 axles. L.B. Haney's rig has 5 axles.
SunPass in correctly billed L.B. Haney in October at least 17 times SunPass in correctly billed L.B. Haney in October at least 17 times
L.B. Haney wants to know how SunPass billed him for 11 axles when he has a 5 axle rig L.B. Haney wants to know how SunPass billed him for 11 axles when he has a 5 axle rig
Northrup's rig has 5 axles.  He is consistently billed for 6, 7, 8 and 9 axles. Northrup's rig has 5 axles. He is consistently billed for 6, 7, 8 and 9 axles.
John Northrup complained to SunPass about over-billing John Northrup complained to SunPass about over-billing
Problems with SunPass may be reaching into your wallet.

Truckers have provided 8 On Your Side proof that SunPass consistently over charged them.

What does that mean for you? If the problem is widespread, you may be paying more for anything that is hauled by a truck in Florida.

John Northrup of Plant City spent the last 30 years behind the wheel of a truck.  He contends that the state robbed him for the last 9 years or so. Northrup drives a car carrier rig that has 5 axles.

SunPass bills per axle. A year ago Northrup happened to check his SunPass bills. He noticed the state continuously billed him for more axles than were on his rig. Northrup claims he brought it to the attention of SunPass.

"At that time they graciously agreed to go back 3 months to credit us for what they've been stealing off us for probably the last 9 years," Northrup said.

Northrup claims that SunPass' explanation didn't make a lot of sense.

"They explained to us that the SunPass system was catching somebody tailgating us," he said.

Northrup claims that just didn't sound right, because if he drives a rig with 5 axles and is billed for 6, then what is the guy who is tailgating him driving?

"I assume they've got to either be driving a unicycle or a segway, but I've never seen them on the road," Northrup said.

Northrup, an independent trucker, claims the state put his account on a special watch list so that it could more carefully monitor his bills. He claimed the problems persisted. 8 On Your Side examined several months' worth of Northrup's bills.

In October, we found SunPass over billed him 18 times. In September, there were another 18 errors. In August, another 14 over-billings. We also found that on October 23rd at 9:35 a.m., SunPass billed Northrup for driving his 5 axle rig near Orlando. His invoice shows SunPass then billed him for going through another toll with a 7 axle rig, just 3 minutes later.

"107 times last year I was billed for 6 (axles), and 35 times for 7 and 21 times for 8, several times for ," Northrup stated. He estimates SunPass over billed him by at least $1,000 last year.

He's not alone.  L.B. Haney, another independent trucker out of Polk County, also discovered problems with his billings. Haney shared his SunPass billings with 8 On Your Side. In October, we found SunPass incorrectly billed him at least 17 times, including on October 2nd when SunPass billed Haney for driving a rig with 11 axles.

"This is the first time I've heard of this level of errors taking place on SunPass, so obviously that's deeply concerning," St. Petersburg State Senator Jeff Brandes (R) St. Petersburg said. 8 On Your Side showed our findings to Brandes, who is the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

According to Brandes' office, the Florida Department of Transportation, which oversees SunPass, did not blame the problem on tailgating. It told Brandes' office that censors count axles and that vibration caused by a heavy load may prompt the censors to miscount.

"You know living in Florida, you realize there's never just one cockroach, you realize that these issues never affect just one person, that it's obviously much larger than that," Brandes said.

Brandes suspects there are problems. He plans to ask FDOT to audit SunPass and thinks a technology upgrade for the censors is necessary.

"When we have industries that are struggling and small business are struggling to make a living, the last thing we want to do is put more burdens in their way, especially when there are inaccuracies that are costing them thousands of dollars," Brandes said.

Northrup points out this issue could have far-reaching consequences. If extra costs are passed along to truckers, they are in turn passed along to consumers.

"Somebody can sit there and say, I don't use the toll roads, I don't care. Well if Publix is getting over billed a million dollars, you're paying for it," Northrup said.

FDOT public information officer Christa Deason wrote in an email, this is a hardware issue, not a SunPass issue or a software issue.

"Mr. Northrup's issue is a new one for our tech team, and we have not come across this before, so they are going to contact the customer directly and see if there is something with the design or loading of his trailer (car carrier), which sits low to the ground, confusing the loop detectors," Deason stated.

In the meantime, according to Deason, SunPass has placed a manual override on Northrup's account, and the vehicle will automatically be set to default to 5 axles for toll charges.

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