Problems persist with e-sticker system

New leadership of the Transport Ministry planning changes in fines.

(Source: Sme)

The system monitoring whether drivers of passenger cars on Slovakia’s highways have bought e-stickers for legal passage on toll roads is still not working properly as it fails to send fines to violators. After months of trial operation the new transport minister has finally admitted flaws in the system and announced a plan to change the scheme. Only afterwards responsible bodies will start sending fines to violators while they have two years time to do so.

“Until the legislation is changed no fines will be sent,” new Transport Minister Roman Brecely told the private TV Markiza on April 23. “It does not make any sense [to send fines] at this time.”

Brecely is afraid that if they generated all 100,000 violations from the system and sent people fines, of which €20 million worth have accumulated in the system, they would cause serious problems to many people with their household budgets.

Another problem is that the system reports an overly-high error rate when reporting which cars drive on toll roads without a valid e-sticker.

Róbert Auxt, head of the National Highway Company (NDS) admitted the problem with the system earlier in April.

“Primarily the problem is filtration of licence numbers,” Auxt told the Hospodárske Noviny daily, explaining that the system does not properly distinguish license numbers of cars exempt from the duty to buy e-stickers, i.e. those of the Interior Ministry, emergency cars, cars of fire-fighters and others. The system also has a rather high error rate when the system indicates that a car does not have a valid sticker while the opposite is true. “We are trying to set up the system in a way that the error rate is near zero.”

The e-sticker system

As of January 2016 original paper stickers that owners of passenger cars buy to drive on highways in Slovakia were replaced by e-stickers to be bought via the internet, mobile or at petrol stations. Their price remained unchanged - €10 for a 10-day sticker, €14 for a one-month sticker and €50 for a yearly sticker.

Read also:Electronic toll stickers offer more ease in useRead more 

It is the Skytoll company already operating the electronic tolling system for trucks that won the tender worth €14 million to sell e-stickers. But it is not responsible for checking whether all cars driving on toll roads hold a valid e-sticker. It is the task of the highway administrator National Highway Company (NDS) that has installed 114 cameras and has at its disposal also six mobile checking teams. One-off costs amount to €3 million, while annual operation of the system should cost an additional €300,000.

The system works in a way that initially a car owner buys an e-sticker and registers the plate number of his car in the system. When driving on a highway, NDS’ cameras will record the car’s license number and send it to a server of the Transport Ministry. Afterwards, if there is no e-sticker registered for such a car, the information about the fine should be sent to district offices, which will pair the licence number with the car owner and send him or her a fine, Hospodárske Noviny explained.   

The fine now is €300 and moreover, a driver repeatedly driving without the sticker should receive a fine for each day during which he or she used the tolled roads. This means that the final fine can reach thousands of euros.

Proposed changes

Minister Brecely does not consider either the fine of €300 or accumulation of fines as corresponding with the kind of violation and plans to propose a change. He would like to see the fine reduced to €150, i.e. triple the annual e-sticker cost. Drivers also should not receive new fines sooner than they pay the first one and if they pay-up within 15 days, the sum should be reduced to €100.

Transport experts agree with the reduction.

“The fine should be economically acceptable and in order it serves as a deterring example for those who want to drive without a valid e-sticker,” Ľubomír Palčák of the Research Institute of Transport (VÚD) told Sme.  

The ministry wants to submit the amendment next week and parliament should deal with it in a fast-track proceeding.

The opposition party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) welcomes the initiative of the Transport Ministry, while it also calls for a kind of a general pardon for so-far multiple violators when it proposes a flat fine of €50 for drivers regardless of how much they drove on highways without a valid sticker.

“This general pardon will be valid until NDS sets its systems in a way that fines for driving without a sticker would arrive to delinquents in real time,” said SaS vice-chair Jana Kiššová as cited by the SITA newswire.

The Transport Ministry is against a general pardon seeing it as not fair to those with e-stickers. 

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