American Trucking Associations sues Rhode Island DOT director over truck-only tolls

July 11, 2018

Tyson Fisher


The next round in the fight to stop Rhode Island’s truck-only tolls will take place in a courtroom.

On Tuesday, July 10, the American Trucking Associations and three motor carriers filed a lawsuit against Rhode Island DOT Director Peter Alviti claiming the tolls targeting truckers are unconstitutional.

Along with Cumberland Farms, M&M Transport Services and New England Motor Freight, ATA asks the court to declare the tolls to be a violation of the Commerce Clause and to include an injunction against enforcement of the tolls in the future.

“This toll regime was designed to, and does in fact, impose discriminatory and disproportionate burdens on out-of-state operators and on truckers who are operating in interstate commerce” the lawsuit states. “By design, the tolls fall exclusively on the types of trucks that are most likely to be engaged in the interstate transport of cargo, while exempting automobiles and the smaller vehicles that are relatively more likely to be engaged in intrastate travel.”

The Commerce Clause forbids states to impose charges with the intent to discriminate in favor of domestic, and against out-of-state or interstate, entities. According to the lawsuit, the truck-only tolls do exactly that.

Furthermore, the clause requires states to calibrate fees that are imposed in interstate commerce so that the fees reflect a fair approximation of the payer’s use of the tolled facility without being excessive in relation to the benefits received. ATA claims that all exempt vehicles “cause a significant degree of wear and tear.” Consequently, a truck-only toll is not compatible with large trucks’ fair approximation use of the tolled facilities.

ATA argues that the discriminatory tolls will increase the cost of transporting goods, which in turn will reduce revenue for truckers. As a result, truckers will find cheaper routes through other states, potentially losing business to other modes of transportation. Consumers can be affected by rising costs of goods.

“We’ve maintained since Day One that the truck-only tolling component of RhodeWorks is unlawful and this comprehensive lawsuit offers unequivocal proof,” said Chris Maxwell, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Trucking Association.

RIDOT has been waiting for the inevitable lawsuit.

“This is a lawsuit we expected,” the agency said in a news release. “We are prepared to defend the tractor-trailer-truck-only tolling program and have been prepared to do so for three years. We are confident that we will prevail.”

The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates also chimed in.

“RhodeWorks’ use of tolling is the wrong way to fund transportation infrastructure and an unprecedented use of the federal exemption that is meant to repair ailing bridges,” ATFI said in a statement. “Governor Raimondo is using that lone exemption to create an entire network of statewide tolls. This has never been done before. It’s not an innovative solution; it’s bad policy.”