ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and three motor carriers are suing the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation in a U.S. Federal Court.
The suit, filed in U.S. district court in Rhode Island July 10, names director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation Peter Alviti Jr. specifically, and calls tolls leveled against heavy trucks discriminatory.
According to the complaint (which has not yet been proven in court), the tolls were applied on heavy trucks operating on Highway I-95 as part of the state’s “Rhodeworks” program, but not on other types of vehicles.
The toll program was implemented to help pay for road maintenance and repairs after it was revealed that Rhode Island is at the bottom of all 50 states in bridge condition and repair, with about 22% of the state’s bridges in “structurally deficient” condition.
The ATA, Cumberland Farms, M&M Transport Services, and New England Motor Freight are seeking an injunction from the Federal Court by claiming the tolls are inhibiting interstate commerce and discriminating against out-of-state fleets and drivers, which puts them in violation of the commerce clause in Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
ATA president and CEO Chris Spear says the trucking industry has been against the tolls since they were proposed in 2015, advocating for the truck-only tolls to be rolled back.
“It is unfortunate that Governor Raimondo and her administration did not heed those warnings, but now we will see them in court.”
The complaint says the tolling program also limits the tolls collected from trucks that make multiple trips on a single day, providing disproportionate benefits to Rhode Island operators, while placing the burden on interstate commercial road users.
Rhode Island has yet to respond directly to the suit, however the department of transportation website says the state is the only one in the U.S. north east that does not charge user fees for large commercial vehicles, citing the U.S. $182 trucks must pay on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the U.S. $114 trucks pay to cross the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to New York as examples. Both of those routes require vehicles other than heavy trucks to pay the tolls as well.
Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association says industry groups are willing to work with the state to address funding options for the crumbling infrastructure but calls the current method “unlawful.”