A Maryland Tolling Update
Unprecedented Call Volumes & Wait Times
Backlogged Tolling Transactions Deferred During Pandemic Will Continue to Post Into Summer 2022
Maintain Your E-ZPass Account to Receive the Lowest Toll Rate
In spring 2020, the Maryland Transportation Authority’s (MDTA) major transition to its new tolling system DriveEzMD was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Impacts continue to be felt by our tolling customers today. The switch to all-electronic (cashless) tolling statewide was done overnight in March 2020 to protect our toll collectors and the traveling public.
Much like the deferment of rent, mortgage, and many other COVID financial relief programs at the height of the pandemic, the MDTA responded to the numerous customers and businesses who had significant financial strains from the nationwide shutdowns and layoffs. While Maryland tolls remained in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic, we paused the processing of certain transactions and deferred billing for these items. The MDTA and DriveEzMD hear and understand frustrations encountered by customers as a result of this pandemic-related backlog, and we continue working to improve the customer experience.
Why are so many customers calling our call center?
The primary factor behind the high call volumes is the ongoing processing of deferred tolls that accrued from March 2020 to October 2020 by drivers who used Maryland toll facilities without E-ZPass. As the posting and mailing of deferred tolls continues, the volume of daily calls has increased significantly. From the end of July 2021 to October 2021, the call volume has increased by almost 3,000 calls per day, nearly doubling the volumes seen at the launch of our new tolling system. In November 2021, the call center received almost 180,000 calls.
As backlogged transactions for Marylanders continue to post until summer 2022, the MDTA reminds E-ZPass account holders to maintain a positive balance with proper replenishments. These transactions are being metered to customers’ accounts to minimize large balances posting all at once. While we understand that some customers may have opted to pay these deferred tolls in a shorter timeframe, it was infeasible to rapidly modify the tolling system to handle the case-by-case scenarios for the more than 150 million transactions processed on average each year.
What is causing the long call wait times?
With the overnight implementation of all-electronic tolling in Maryland due to COVID, the major transition to our new tolling system in spring 2021, and the resumed processing of deferred tolls, customer service response times have been negatively impacted. Unfortunately, the MDTA and DriveEzMD are not immune to the staffing shortages and retention challenges impacting businesses nationwide.
When it opened on April 29, 2021, the DriveEzMD call center was staffed with 160 service representatives. By August 2021, the staffing level unexpectedly fell to 60 representatives. Despite consistent hiring efforts and onboarding incentives, staffing volumes remained inconsistent throughout fall 2021 while call volumes associated with the backlog of tolls continued to increase. Also, the recent spike in the pandemic has resulted in periods with as high as 46 percent of the staff quarantined and unavailable to answer calls. Our tolling customer service vendor is actively recruiting, incentivizing, and training new staff.
The DriveEzMD call center is on track to employ additional customer service representatives – with the goal to help reduce call wait times and inquiry response timelines.
What can I do to avoid waiting on hold?
Customers may take advantage of the many services that can be completed 24/7 at DriveEzMD.com or by calling 1-888-321-6824 and accessing the automated phone system. To better serve and accommodate our customers, we strive to make the website and phone system intuitive and easy to navigate, improving the self-service elements and reducing the need for any wait, be it on the phone or in person.
If you need to speak with a customer service representative, a callback feature is available from the 1-888-321-6824 customer service line. During periods when call center staffing levels can support the call back feature, you will be given an option to reserve your place in line without holding and receive a call back from a customer-service representative when your place in the queue is reached. These callback times are subject to change.
Customers may also complete transactions in-person at our Customer Service Centers (CSC) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The MDTA has temporarily expanded hours at all CSCs on Thursdays (8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and Saturdays (8 a.m. to 12 noon). Locations may be found here DriveEzMD.com/contact-us/. Note: CSCs at MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration branches are open by appointment only. Representatives are available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule appointments by calling 410-537-8400.
How do I ensure I pay the lowest tolls when travelling?
E-ZPass remains the most cost-effective way to travel toll roads in Maryland, saving drivers up to 77% versus the higher rates and additional paperwork that come with Video Tolls and risks of civil penalties, vehicle registration suspension, and debt collections. Transponders are free and there’s no monthly fee for Maryland addresses. Accounts without a Maryland address are charged a $1.50 monthly account maintenance fee unless Maryland toll facilities are travelled at least three times in the previous statement period.
It is important to note the following to ensure the lowest toll rate for your account:
- maintain an accurate, current listing of all vehicle(s),
- keep billing information up to date (e.g., check for expired credit cards, etc.),
- maintain a positive balance, and
- properly mount your E-ZPass transponder prior to traveling a toll facility.
If a customer does not maintain a positive balance on accounts and travels through a Maryland facility, a higher rate Video Toll transaction will result. We most often see that A higher toll rate is charged for Video Tolling to offset the higher cost of processing and mailing Video Tolls.
To assist customers in maintaining a positive E-ZPass account balance, customers may elect to enroll in automatic replenishment via a linked credit card or bank account. As we continue posting the previous tolled trips, accounts may see more automatic replenishment charges.
Customers may increase their replenishment amount to be charged less frequently during this time.
Due to the volume of tolls posting, the replenishment amount may temporarily increase; however, your account will continue to be re-evaluated, and your replenishment amount will be adjusted based on your toll usage. If you feel your replenishment amount is too high or too low, please contact a customer service representative and they will adjust your replenishment amount as requested.
Customers not signed up for automatic replenishment may enroll at www.driveezmd.com.
Customers may replenish accounts with cash, check, or money order by visiting an E-ZPass Maryland Customer Service Center.
Can I pay my tolls without E-ZPass?
Pay-By-Plate is an alternative payment option offered in which you register your license plate and tolls are automatically billed to your credit card each time you use a Maryland toll facility. It may be used on vehicles with 10 axles or less. Pay-By-Plate requires vehicle information and valid credit card information for processing payment. When the customer’s license plate is read by an MDTA toll facility, the trip will be deducted using the license plate on file. The credit card on file will be charged.
If you traveled a toll facility without an E-ZPass or Pay-By-Plate, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to save 15% (up to $5) by paying your Video Tolls online before the Notice of Toll Due (NOTD) is mailed. To take advantage of the early payment discount, we encourage you to monitor any Video Tolls as they post online at https://csc.driveezmd.com/pay-tolls-now. If tolls associated with your vehicle are not in the system, stay tuned as we will continue to post additional Video Toll transactions.
Have additional questions?
Visit DriveEzMD.com to learn more and enroll in E-ZPass, sign up for Pay-By-Plate, pay Video Tolls or update your account. We continue to enhance the Frequently Asked Questions and video tutorials to better serve our customers. To speak with a representative, call the toll-free line (711 for MD Relay) between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, the live chat feature is available during these hours at www.driveezmd.com. Unfortunately, as we continue processing the backlog of transactions, there will continue to be periods of high call and web chat volumes, so wait times may vary.
We thank our valued customers for their patience and understanding.