December 6, 2019

Trucking industry clears hurdle in suit against truck-only tolls

Industry's challenge to Rhode Island's freight-truck tolling program can move forward in federal court, U.S. Appeals Court rules.

By DC Velocity Staff

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is praising this week's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit to allow the industry's lawsuit against the state of Rhode Island's truck-only tolls to move forward. ATA and a handful of companies sued the state over what it claims are unfair tolling practices under the state's RhodeWorks program.

"We have long believed that Rhode Island's RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme was a violation of the Constitution and an attempt to use our industry as a piggy bank," ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement Thursday. "Today's decision by the First Circuit paves the way for us to make that argument in federal court and we look forward to the chance to vindicate our case on the merits."

Rhode Island's RhodeWorks program took effect last year; it aims to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements throughout the state by charging tolls for freight trucks travelling along interstate 95. 

ATA filed suit against the state in 2018, claiming that the RhodeWorks program discriminates against interstate trucking companies and impedes the flow of interstate commerce by levying a special toll on freight trucks. A federal judge threw out the case this past March, saying it needed to be heard at the state level, but this week's appeals court ruling puts the issue back on track.

"Today's ruling is just another step in getting these extortionary tolls torn down and we would urge the governor and her allies to do the right thing and put an end to this unfair and unconstitutional toll scheme so we can get serious about working together on how to equitably and effectively rebuild our infrastructure," Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell said.

ATA filed the lawsuit jointly with Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc., and New England Motor Freight. They argue that the RhodeWorks plan violates the Constitution's Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state economic interests in order to favor in-state interests, and by designing the tolls in a way that does not fairly approximate motorists' use of the roads.

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