It's a shocking revelation, 7's Hank Phillippi Ryan found motorists ripping off the system and Pike officials powerless to stop it! Hank Investigates this MassPike mess.

Would you pay to fix someone else's flat tire?

On the Mass Turnpike, we found drivers do that every day.

The yellow trucks that patrol the pike, fixing tires and filling gas tanks-that rescue service is funded by the tolls. And drivers? You're pumping in a million dollars a year to pay for it.

The drivers who get the assistance are supposed to pay for it themselves, but we found literally half of them are ripping off roadside assistance, costing the Pike big bucks.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS"It is mandatory to pay, some people just don't?"

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner"Right."

When Alan LeBovidge took over Pike management, he considered scrapping the whole program.

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner"A million dollars is a lot of money for us in the turnpike and unfortunately we don't receive any state aid to cover it so we have to take it out of the tolls."

But because the Pike is limited access, on-ramps can be 30 miles apart, and because there's not always a safe place for repairs, Lebovidge decided it was dangerous for leave drivers on their own.

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner"We've made a judgment that safety is our number one issue."

And of course, if you're on an deserted highway with no cell phone and tankers whizzing by, you're certainly happy when the yellow truck shows up to save you.

Rescued motorist"Very convenient for me."

And we found the Turnpike rescues about 14,000 times a year.

Rescued motorist"I was really delighted."

But here's where the emergency service hits a big, big pothole: After your tire is fixed or your tank is filled, the guy in the truck gives you this numbered envelope addressed to the Turnpike Authority. You're supposed to send $20 to help pay for the help.

Rescued motorist"I think that's cheap!"

Problem is, we found many people may be grateful, but not grateful enough to pay the $20.

In fact, we have learned fully 50 percent just don't bother to send in the money! And as a result, we found the Pike's losing almost $200,000 a year!

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS "I mean, when your realized half the people don't pay, what did you think?"

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner "Well, I went crazy."

If you had to call your own crew from a garage or gas station, it could cost you more than three times as much.

But unlike the corner gas station who takes your cash or credit card, the Mass Pike collects by what it calls an "honor system."

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS "You call it the honor system because right now there's no way to force people to pay."

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner"That's right."

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS "So your only method of getting people to pay is telling them they should."

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner"Correct."

Look: Each collection envelope requests "prompt payment" to "avoid collection follow-ups." But we found "collection follow-ups" don't really exist.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS "Do you do any type of collection?"

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner"Yeah we do, but when it s a twenty dollar fee, the collection costs, you know, can eat up the twenty dollars."

If you blow through the tolls, even a two buck toll, they get you for a fifty dollar fine, and eventually you could lose your license or registration.

But don't pay for the good guy in the yellow truck and bottom line? Nothing will happen.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS "I mean, you could connect with the Registry, you could take their drivers' license, aren't there things you could do?

Alan LeBovidge, Mass Turnpike Commissioner "Yeah, we could do that. That's a good idea, actually, we have to talk to the Registry about doing that."

LeBovidge says he doesn't want the emergency crews carrying around money, but now he's investigating whether giving them portable credit card machines might be a solution.

(Copyright (c) 2009 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox