Chances are if you see a trailer with a Maine tag on a local road, the vehicle towing that trailer probably has a Delaware tag. And getting the tag is as easy as logging onto the internet.
More and more Delaware drivers are registering boat, horse, utility, farm and tractor-trailers in Maine to save money and avoid inspections – but they are doing it illegally.
In 2013, Delaware State Police and the Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles are cracking down on violators. Officials say the law has been on the books for a long time, but many people are simply not aware of it.
Penalties have been increased to $400 to $600 for a first offense and $800 to $1,200 for each subsequent offense. Imprisonment of 10 days to 30 days is also possible after a first offense.
The only exception to the law is for tractor-trailers covered under the International Registration Plan.
"If you are not a tractor-trailer-owner-operator registered with IRP and you live in Delaware and you have your trailer registered in Maine, you are violating Delaware law,” explained DMV Director Jennifer Cohan.
"Delaware law requires that if you live in this state for 60 consecutive days you are required to register your vehicles and trailers in Delaware,” said Col. Nathaniel McQueen of the Delaware State Police.
DMV officials estimate that thousands of trailers are tagged illegally in Delaware. DMV officials say cost and ease of obtaining Maine trailer tags are the main reasons people skirt the law; Maine requires no inspection to receive a trailer tag. In Delaware, an inspection is required each time tag registration is renewed. Annual renewal fees range from $15 to $40 in Delaware; tagging the same trailer in Maine can be 50 percent less.
“And if this has gone on for a long time, the trailers could be very unsafe; it definitely becomes a safety issue,” said Mike Williams, DMV spokesman. “In Delaware, trailers are inspected just like vehicles.”
Non-residents can obtain a Maine trailer tag for up to 12 years via email or mail, and agents are available to help with paperwork to obtain tags. Main Trailer Registrations, an agent for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, mails trailer tags within 10 business days. A five-year tag costs $99 going through the agent.
Not only are more and more people tagging their trailers in Maine, those same motorists are racking up unpaid tolls on Route 1 and I-95. Williams said EZ Pass records show that Maine trailers account for about $300,000 of the $1.5 million in uncollected tolls in 2011. “Using that, it's easy to connect the dots,” he said.
DelDOT officials are powerless to recoup the lost toll revenue because there are no reciprocity laws on the books to collect the money, Williams said. DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt said his department would pursue reciprocity legislation this year, starting with Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
There is another $1.5 million in outstanding uncollected tolls from Delaware motorists, but there is a mechanism in place to get that money. Williams said computer records will show that a motorist owes money when they attempt to register a vehicle. “They must pay the toll first before they can register a vehicle,” Williams said.