New Jersey May End Roadside Assistance

July 28, 2010

On the heels of eliminating safety inspections for motor vehicles the state of New Jersey is now considering the elimination of the ESP program. That stands for Emergency Service Patrol. It is a 16 year old program that was initiated to increase safety on the roads by keeping the lanes clear and reducing congestion.

In 2009 over 100,000 motorists were assisted with minor automotive needs that were short of needing a tow truck. Batteries were jumped, flats were changed and a gallon of gas was offered to stranded drivers all at a low cost of zero, nada, zilch. And there is the fly in the ointment motivating the state to consider scrapping the program and moving to privatization.

The annual cost of ESP caused the Transportation Commissioner, Jim Simpson, to tell “I can take that $12 million and use it for more asphalt." The federal government supplies the funds that run the program.

The elimination of the program would affect the 90 drivers that patrol 400 miles of the state’s most travelled non-toll roads from 4 in the morning to 8:30 in the evening Monday through Fridays. Toll revenue supports services offered on New Jersey’s three toll highways.

These drivers were not the only state highway workers whose jobs were put under the accountant’s microscope. Toll takers showed up at a monthly New Jersey Turnpike Authority meeting to express their concern over a report that indicated that cashless tolling and the outsourcing of toll collection would be ways for New Jersey to save millions of dollars.

Franceline Ehret, a toll collector for 25 years and president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local No. 194, which represents turnpike toll collectors, told “It’s the major artery for the Northeast region--it’s the highest traveled road in the country. I think it’s sort of folly to put that in private hands.”

With the inevitable downgrading of vehicle integrity that will come with the elimination of safety inspections in New Jersey and the fact that motorists will soon to be left to their own devices on 400 miles of roads in the state, tourists may likely find that the Garden State is not as car friendly as it was in the past.

AllCarAdvice considered safety inspections in its May 27, 2010 post entitled Are State Safety Inspections of Vehicles Needed? In it the debate over whether the inspections save lives was considered and an opinion was offered as to the real life implications of eliminating periodic safety reviews.  


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