Administrative Hearing

 

ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING RULES:

ORDER PROHIBITING USE OF NTTA TOLL HIGHWAYS BY THE VEHICLES OF REPEAT TOLL VIOLATORS

 
 
PURPOSE
 
Pursuant to its powers under Chapter 366 of the Transportation Code (“Act”) to construct and operate turnpike projects, the North Texas Tollway Authority (“NTTA”) has built and operates a system of high-quality highways that speed travel, spur economic development and deliver both safety and environmental benefits.
 
NTTA funds its operations and services its debt through the tolls paid by highway users. Some users are repeatedly driving on NTTA highways without paying. These Administrative Hearing Rules (“Rules”) implement remedies available to NTTA to prohibit the vehicles owned by repeat toll violators from traveling on NTTA toll highways until past-due tolls and fees are paid. These measures are necessary to ensure that NTTA has the resources to meet its financial obligations and to ensure fairness to the users who do pay their tolls in a timely fashion. 
 
AUTHORITY
 
Texas Transportation Code §366.033(a)(1) authorizes NTTA toadopt rules for the regulation of its affairs and the conduct of its business.”  Texas Transportation Code §366.033(a)(12) authorizes NTTA to adopt and enforce rules governing the use of its highways. Texas Transportation Code §366.178 provides that the registered owner of a vehicle is responsible for tolls and administrative fees incurred by their vehicle when operated on NTTA highways. Texas Transportation Code §284.202, which may be utilized by NTTA through Texas Transportation Code §366.178(j), vests NTTA Board of Directors with the authority to issue or cause the issuance of an order prohibiting the use of a motor vehicle on a turnpike because of unpaid tolls. Texas Transportation Code §366.180(b)(1) authorizes NTTA to prohibit the use or access to or from a turnpike by a motor vehicle.
 
Definitions
  1. “Hearing” means the administrative hearing established in Section 4.
  2. “Hearing Officer” means the person presiding over an administrative hearing pursuant to these Rules.
  3. “Highway” shall (i) have the meaning set forth in Transportation Code §366.003(11), (ii) include roads, bridges and tunnels, and (iii) be a “turnpike project” under the Act.
  4. “Notice” means the written communication pursuant to Section 6 informing violators that NTTA intends to issue an Order of Prohibition.
  5. “Order of Prohibition” means an order issued pursuant to these Rules barring a Repeat Toll Violator’s vehicle from using NTTA Toll Highways.
  6. “Repeat Toll Violator” means the registered owner of one or more motor vehicles for which at least 100 tolls and associated fees for travel on NTTA Highways have remained unpaid after expiration of the time for payment specified in third notices of non-payment issued pursuant to Texas Transportation Code §366.178(d-2).
  7. “Toll Highway” means all NTTA Highways for which a toll is imposed on vehicles using that Highway.
  8. “Violation” means a toll and associated fees that have remained unpaid after expiration of the time for payment specified in third notices of non-payment issued pursuant to Texas Transportation Code §366.178(d-2).
  9. “Violator” means the registered owner of a motor vehicle for which a toll and associated fees for travel on NTTA Toll Highways remain unpaid after expiration of the time for payment specified in third notices of non-payment issued pursuant to Texas Transportation Code §366.178(d-2).
  10. “Writing” means a written communication transmitted in paper or electronic form.

 
ESTABLISHMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING
 
A.    Hearing is established to provide due process protections for Violators before NTTA issues an Order of Prohibition. The Hearing will include the following elements:
  1. Notice informing Violator that NTTA intends to cause the issuance of an Order of Prohibition in accordance with these Rules;
  2. A period of not less than 30 days for Violator to (i) pay tolls and fees owed NTTA that have remained unpaid after expiration of the time for payment specified in a third notice of nonpayment issued pursuant to Texas Transportation Code §366.178(d-2) or (ii) request a Hearing;
  3. An independent Hearing Officer;
  4. The right to examine the evidence presented by NTTA;
  5. The right to present and cross-examine witnesses;
  6. The right to present evidence that Violator is not a Repeat Toll Violator;
  7. The right to appear at the Hearing and/or be represented by an attorney;
  8. The right to seek judicial review of an Order entered by Hearing Officer; and
  9. A description of the possible adverse consequences if an Order of Prohibition is entered, including impoundment of the Repeat Toll Violator’s vehicle if operated on a Toll Highway when an Order of Prohibition is in effect.
DUE DILIGENCE BEFORE ISSUING NOTICE
 
Before issuing the Notice, NTTA will confirm Violator’s name and current address from Department of Motor Vehicle records or other sources, that all the Violations are attributable to the motor vehicle registered in the name of Violator, and that the number of Violations makes Violator a Repeat Toll Violator.
 
REQUIREMENTS OF THE NOTICE
 
  1. NTTA may serve the Notice on Violator by hand delivery, by first-class mail to the address recorded in the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles vehicle registration records or to the lessee of the cited vehicle at the last address known to the lessor of the cited vehicle at the time of the lease, or by other reasonably reliable means of delivery, provided that NTTA will send the Notice to the best address that it has determined from records and information used by NTTA in conducting its business.
  2. The Notice shall provide the following information:
  1. The number of Violations and the amount of the unpaid tolls and fees associated with the Violations;
  2. The license plate number of the cited vehicle(s), if available;
  3. The Violator’s right to a Hearing in accordance with these Rules before NTTA issues an Order of Prohibition;
  4. The date by which Violator must request a Hearing;
  5. The rights afforded Violator at the Hearing;
  6. NTTA contact information through which Violator may satisfy the debt owed to NTTA or request a Hearing; and
  7. A statement that Violator’s failure to appear at a Hearing in the manner and time provided shall be deemed an admission of liability and that an Order of Prohibition may be issued based on that failure.
 
SCHEDULING AND CONTINUATION OF HEARING
 
Upon receipt of Violator’s request for a Hearing NTTA will inform Violator in writing of the date, time and place of the Hearing. Violator may have the Hearing continued to a later date upon serving a written request for a continuance at least five business days before the date set for Hearing in the Notice at the address indicated in the Notice.  No more than one continuance may be granted without Violator being required to establish good cause for delay of Hearing date before Hearing Officer. NTTA may file a request with Hearing Officer for a continuance at any time upon good cause shown.
 
 
Hearing Officers – Appointment, Disqualification, Powers and Duties
 
  1. The following requirements apply to Hearing Officers:
  1. Hearing Officers shall be attorneys admitted and in good standing to the practice of law in the State of Texas for at least five years;
  2. A Hearing Officer’s compensation shall not be dependent on or affected by the rulings made by Hearing Officer;
  3. Hearing Officers shall not be current or former NTTA employees or contractors, except in their capacity as Hearing Officers; and
  4. A motion to disqualify a Hearing Officer may be made for bias, conflict of interest or other good cause and must be made before the Hearing begins.
  1. Hearing Officer’s powers and duties include, but are not limited to:
  1. Presiding over the Hearing;
  2. Explaining Hearing procedures;
  3. Administering oaths and listening to testimony;
  4. Ruling on the admissibility of evidence and permitting parties to present evidence;
  5. Permitting parties to examine and cross-examine witnesses;
  6. Imposing reasonable time limits on opening statements, presentation of evidence, examination of witnesses, closing arguments, and other components of the Hearing; and
  7. Preparing a determination containing his/her findings regarding whether Violator is a Repeat Toll Violator.
 
DISCOVERY
  1. Before the Hearing, Violator may schedule an appointment to review video or photo surveillance evidence pertaining to the Notice. These appointments will occur during regular NTTA business hours of at NTTA's central office located at 5900 West Plano Parkway, Plano, Texas 75093 or any other location designated by NTTA.
  2. Written discovery is limited to the production of documents and identification of witnesses each party intends to use at the Hearing. NTTA need not supply Violator with documents that NTTA had previously supplied Violator.
IN-PERSON HEARINGS
 
  1. In-Person Hearings may be conducted with all parties physically present before Hearing Officer or may be conducted telephonically or through other electronic means by which all parties are audible to each other and Hearing Officer and able to participate in the proceeding.
  2. NTTA may be represented by an employee, attorney or duly authorized agent at the Hearing or may proceed on the Notice.
  3. Hearing Officer may place in the record the Notice and proof of service of the Notice.
  4. NTTA and Violator may introduce into evidence, and Hearing Officer may consider, all video or photo surveillance evidence relating to the alleged Violations, the evidentiary foundation for which shall be presumed valid subject to rebuttal. A notice or facsimile of the notice, sworn or affirmed to or certified by a duly authorized NTTA agent based upon an inspection of photographs, microphotographs, videotape, or other recorded images produced by a video or photo surveillance system, NTTA invoices, and notices of nonpayment, shall be admitted as prima facie evidence of the correctness of the facts contained in the Notice. Evidentiary rules set forth in Texas Transportation Code §366.178(f) and §366.178(f-1) shall apply.
  5. Each party to the Hearing may make an opening statement, call, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and offer evidence for the record. Evidence may be written or oral.
  6. Each party may make a closing argument at the end of Hearing.
  7. No testimony shall be given or received at Hearing relating to discussions, offers, counter offers, rejections or admissions in any settlement negotiations.
  8. Written stipulations of the parties may be introduced as evidence and shall become part of the Hearing record.
  9. Hearing Officer has full authority to conduct and control the Hearing. Hearing Officer is not bound by the rules of evidence applicable to the courts, although irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence will be excluded. Evidence of a type commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent persons in the conduct of their affairs may be admitted. Objections to evidentiary offers may be made, shall be ruled upon by Hearing Officer, and shall be noted in the record. Subject to these requirements, when Hearing will be expedited and the interests of the parties will not be prejudiced, any part of the evidence may be received in written form.
  10. Oral testimony may be recorded by audio or electronic means, provided that, in the event of a recording loss or malfunction, Hearing Officer may prepare a written summary of the oral testimony for purposes of administrative review.
  11. Hearing Officer shall apply a preponderance of the evidence standard.
  12. Upon or within a reasonable period after the end of a Hearing, Hearing Officer will issue a final determination setting forth Hearing Officer’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. If Hearing Officer determines that Violator is a Repeat Toll Violator, NTTA may issue an Order of Prohibition with respect to all vehicles registered to Repeat Toll Violator. The Order of Prohibition shall remain in effect until Repeat Toll Violator has paid NTTA all unpaid tolls and fees owed to NTTA or has otherwise satisfied its debt to NTTA.
  13. NTTA may serve the Order of Prohibition on Repeat Toll Violator by first-class mail to the address recorded in the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles vehicle registration records or to the lessee of the cited vehicle at the last address known to the lessor of the cited vehicle at the time of the lease, or by other reasonably reliable means of delivery, provided that NTTA will send the Notice to the best address that it has determined from records and information used by NTTA in conducting its business.
WRITTEN HEARING FORMAT
 
In lieu of an in-person hearing or a hearing by telephonic or other electronic means, Violator may obtain a Hearing by written submissions by delivering to NTTA no less than five business days before the scheduled date of the Hearing written evidence and argument as to why Violator is not a Repeat Toll Violator and why an Order of Prohibition should not be issued against Violator. NTTA may respond to the evidence and argument within five business days of its receipt of materials from Violator. These written materials shall be submitted to Hearing Officer, who shall then issue a final determination as set forth in Section 10.
 
Failure to Respond to Notice OR APPEAR FOR HEARING – Default
 
A Violator who fails to satisfy amounts due to NTTA or who fails to appear at the Hearing within the time permitted shall be deemed to have admitted liability and to have waived his/her right to a Hearing. NTTA may enter an Order of Prohibition against such Violator.
 
HEARING OFFICER’S DETERMINATION FINAL
 
Hearing Officer’s determination is final and not subject to administrative appeal.  Nothing in these rules shall diminish Violator’s right to seek judicial relief from an Order of Prohibition issued by NTTA as a result of Hearing Officer’s determination. Violator may appeal an Order of Prohibition by filing a petition with the clerk of a Collin County district court and paying the costs required by law for that court not later than the 30th day after the date on which the Order of Prohibition is served on Violator or at such later date provided by law. An appeal of an Order of Prohibition shall not stay the enforcement of the Order unless the court hearing the appeal issues a stay.
 
VIOLATION OF ORDER OF PROHIBITION
 
A vehicle driven on an NTTA Toll Highway in violation of an Order of Prohibition may be stopped and impounded by a peace officer.  All applicable laws regarding vehicle impound and storage will apply.  
 
NO LIMITATION ON OTHER TOLL ENFORCEMENT REMEDIES
 
The Order of Prohibition and the administrative hearing process set forth in these Rules do not limit NTTA’s right to pursue criminal or civil remedies against a Repeat Toll Violator. NTTA reserves the right to accept partial payment of tolls and fees owed by Repeat Toll Violators or enter into payment agreements with respect to unpaid tolls and fees, but shall be under no obligation to do so.
 
SCOPE OF RULES
 
NTTA may apply the administrative hearing process set forth in these Rules to other forms of toll violation enforcement in order to provide due process before taking final enforcement action.