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Quarterly Newsletter of the Oregon Department of Transportation • Motor Carrier Transportation Division • March 2001

Oregon asks Court about use of PrePass transponders at Green Light weigh stations

The Oregon Department of Transportation has asked a U.S. District Court to decide if it’s lawful for Oregon to enroll transponders belonging to the HELP, Inc. PrePass system into the Green Light truck weigh station preclearance program. In a Declaratory Judgment Action Complaint filed February 8, entitled State of Oregon v. Heavy Vehicle Electronic License Plate (HELP), the Oregon Department of Justice asked the court if enrolling the ID code from a PrePass transponder in Green Light would violate any federal or state law or regulation. Oregon is seeking to use the PrePass transponder in its Green Light system, but only at the request of a motor carrier with those transponders.

Thousands of trucks operating in Oregon today have a PrePass transpon- der that they use when they preclear weigh stations in California and many other states that have the PrePass system. Although the transponders are the same model and type used in Oregon’s Green Light system, they cannot be used to preclear trucks in Oregon because HELP PrePass has a restrictive policy that prohibits anyone from using a PrePass transponder without its permission.

“It just seems reasonable that a motor carrier should only have one tran- sponder in the truck. If our equipment can read HELP’s transponders, why not allow truckers to enroll those devices, instead of making them carry more than one?” Gregg Dal Ponte, Deputy Director of the Motor Carrier Transporta- tion Division, said.

A transponder is a palm-size short-range radio device that is attached to a truck windshield. The device cannot be turned on and off. Its identification number is stamped on the back and it constantly broadcasts that number. It works to identify the truck as it approaches a weigh station, just as a metal license plate does.

A total of 21 Oregon weigh stations now have high-speed weigh-in-motion scales and vehicle identification readers looking for transponder signals. A truck can be cleared to pass the stations at highway speed if its transpon- der number has been entered in the station’s computer system. If the number has not been entered into that system, the truck’s transponder simply gets a red light telling the driver to pull in to the weigh station.

Oregon’s disagreement with HELP dates back to 1998 when the state, at the request of truckers, enrolled about 100 PrePass transponders in the Green Light system. In December 1998, HELP sent then-ODOT Director Grace Crunican a letter alleging misappropriation of property and violation of telecommunications law. Oregon immediately suspended enrollment of PrePass transponders and has since unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a usage agreement with HELP.

“The last three letters in HELP stand for ‘electronic license plate,’” Dal Ponte said. “A license plate does not have secret numbers.”

(more about Green Light on page 6)

Attention: Truck Dispatchers!

Anyone sending trucks to Portland in the next few months should save a copy of the map on page 5. The Oregon Department of Transportation is warning about work on Interstate 5 that includes concrete removal, asphalt replace- ment, structure raising, lane and ramp closures, and even complete closure of I-5 during at least 12 weekends this summer.

Attention: Bookkeepers!

Anyone handling Oregon weight- mile tax reports should know that taxes dropped 12.3% beginning September 2000. Many book- keepers didn’t get that message. For the first month following the change, more than 1,800 motor carriers filed incorrect reports and paid too much. For the second month, about 900 carriers again filed incorrect reports. Motor Carrier Transportation Division (MCTD) staff has been crediting accounts and requesting amended reports, but MCTD is advising carriers that it cannot continue indefinitely to verify the accuracy of every tax report. For a free copy of Tax Tables A and B, call MCTD at 503-378-6699.

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