Pennsylvania's annual turnpike-toll hike set to hit | State parking, CDL-testing news

Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024:

PA Turnpike tolls increase Sunday

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will increase tolls on the turnpike system beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 7.

The Commission approved a 5% increase for E-ZPass and Toll by Plate customers last summer.

The most common toll for tractor-trailers will increase from $14.40 to $15.20 for E-ZPass users and from $29.40 to $30.90 for Toll by Plate users.  

After the increase is applied, E-ZPass and Toll by Plate rates for passenger and commercial vehicles will round up to the nearest dime.  

E-ZPass drivers will continue to get the lowest rates, saving nearly 60% on tolls. Drivers can check toll rates for travel on the PA Turnpike here.

“Our annual toll increases directly support the escalating Act 44 debt service we have had to manage due to the mandates of Act 44 of 2007,” said Rick Dreher, the turnpike commission's CFO. “However, even given that significant financial management challenge, our per-mile toll rates are lower than national toll averages and remain in the mid-range among the 47 toll roads in the U.S.”

With the state’s passage of Act 44 of 2007, the Turnpike was obligated to pay PennDOT $450 million per year to fund non-Turnpike transportation needs around Pennsylvania totaling $8 billion since 2008. Though the payments have been greatly reduced, and no new Act 44 debt is being accrued, the Turnpike must continue to raise tolls in order pay the resulting escalating Act 44 debt service due through 2051, PTC noted.

[Related: Toll roads on the rise: What's an operator's best electronic-collections option?]

Ohio closing rest areas for reconstruction

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will close the rest areas on U.S. 23 in Wyandot County and U.S. 30 in Van Wert County on Thursday, Jan. 11, for demolition and replacement.

The work is anticipated to close the rest areas for approximately a year. The locations will be entirely closed with barricades -- that includes the parking lots. 

In Wyandot County, the northbound rest area is located near the village of Carey (mile marker 20.5), and the southbound is located near the city of Upper Sandusky (mile marker 17). The rebuild in Wyandot County will replace all existing structures and construct additional parking areas.

The Van Wert County rest areas are located on U.S. 30 near the village of Convoy (mile marker 8.5). The Van Wert project will replace all existing buildings and resurface parking areas.

The new facilities are expected to open in 2025.

The new structures will be a lodge-style design with everything under one roof, including larger restrooms with adult changing tables, a lobby area with vending and regional tourism information, and an attached and covered outdoor picnic area. Included in the new design are landscape upgrades. ODOT District 1 Deputy Director Chris Hughes noted that with the closures of the rest facilities, larger numbers of commercial trucks in the area may park for extended periods along highway entrance and exit ramps. 

"We don't anticipate any issues with the expected increase in trucks parked along ramps, but it is something to be aware of as a passing motorist," he said.

The nearest open rest areas on U.S. 23 will be those just south of the city of Marion, on U.S. 30 those to the east in Allen County, near State Route 65, north of the city of Lima.

[Related: Arizona reveals truck parking expansion plan]

Georgia 'modernizes' CDL skills testing process

The Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) has launched an enhancement to the commercial motor vehicle skills testing process, which updates and modernizes the testing procedure, the department said. 

Redesigned by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) and approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the result is a simpler and more effective skills testing process that best assesses an applicant’s readiness to operate a CMV safely.

DDS Commissioner Spencer R. Moore said the redesigned test makes obtaining a CDL “more efficient without lowering requirements and most importantly not compromising safety. Applicants are tested on real-world scenarios that all focus on safety critical items.”

The Modernized CDL Skills Test remains in three parts: The Vehicle Inspection (VI), the Basic Control Skills (BCS) Test and Road Test. The VI and BCS were updated during the modernization process.

The new VI requires fewer items, and the applicants are allowed to use a checklist (provided in the “CDL Study Guide”) for the order of inspection. The inspection focuses on knowledge and safety and contains items a driver would typically experience on the job.

The BCS portion of the driving exam is conducted on a smaller footprint and tests applicants on: Forward Stop; Straight-Line Backing; Forward Offset Tracking and Reverse Offset Backing.

The DDS Customer Service Center (CSC) in the town of Between, Georgia, is the first location offering the modernized process, and DDS said expansion to other locations statewide is ongoing. Appointments are required for all road skills tests. Appointments for both test types, traditional and modernized, are available until the modernization transition is complete statewide.

Drivers who have already passed one or more parts of the three-part CDL skills test cannot shift to the modernized test and receive credit for sections of the traditional test that were completed successfully.  Other requirements for a CDL, including mandatory Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT), have not changed.

Third-party testers also have the option to offer the modernized test to their students, DDS noted. 

[Related: CBD horror story: The indignity of Return to Duty and Substance Abuse Professional programs]

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