- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina Department of Transportation trucks could soon look like billboards as the agency seeks to raise money by selling advertising.

DOT officials asked a House panel Thursday for permission to sell ads on the agency’s property, including its buildings, trucks and website. The agency has no estimates yet for the potential revenue.

“We view it as a potential opportunity,” said DOT Secretary Christy Hall.

For example, she said, the blue trucks that drive the interstates to assist broken-down motorists could advertise an insurance company.

The agency would abide by local ordinances, said Allen Hutto, the agency’s legislative liaison.

“This isn’t free rein to do anything,” he said. “We can’t in the middle of a downtown somewhere put up a big banner on the front of the building.”

The House panel postponed voting on the idea to work on the wording for how ads would be sold. Hall said the normal competitive bidding process would apply.

But House Oversight subcommittee members want the proposal to be specific. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, said he wants to ensure there’s a fair process if “you have four people who want to be on the same space.”

The cash-strapped agency is also looking to collect money from toll booth violators.

While the state can send a bill to out-of-state drivers, it can’t do anything if they don’t pay, Hall said.

The state has two toll roads - the Southern Connector in Greenville County and the Cross Island Parkway on Hilton Head Island.

Last year, $76,000 worth of out-of-state fines went unpaid, Hutto said.

Currently, the agency can collect only by taking violators to magistrate’s court. That’s not a feasible option for out-of-state residents. Even for in-state violators, it’s not ideal, since it’s a time-consuming process for the agency that also ties up local courts, Hall said.

The panel advanced the agency’s request, allowing it to suspend the vehicle registration of in-state drivers whose violations top $300, and to enter reciprocal agreements with other states to suspend registrations of tourists who don’t pay.

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