Federal appeals court hears OOIDA’s Indiana toll lawsuit

December 2020/January 2021

Tyson Fisher

|

The battle against Indiana’s tolls endures after a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s lawsuit.

In October, OOIDA and the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. presented oral arguments before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. OOIDA claims the tolls imposed on heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles violates the Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution.

Representing OOIDA, Paul Cullen Sr. called Indiana’s tolls on truckers discriminatory. Specifically, a 35% increase in truck tolls creates an undue burden, OOIDA said.

In 2018, Indiana tolls for trucks increased by 35%. Cullen said it could be argued that the truck toll rate adequately represented trucking’s fair share of costs. However, the large toll increase was not justified by any increase in costs of trucks using the road, causing an undue burden.

During oral arguments, the court asked Cullen if Indiana tolls are excessive compared to benefits received, why would drivers continue to use the toll road when they have other options? Cullen argued that alternate routes were never considered in previous cases. Regardless, there are many reasons why a driver would choose to use the turnpike, including superior roads and safety.

The state points to a market-exception within the Commerce Clause. Essentially, if a state acts more as a business owner within the free market, it is exempt from the Commerce Clause. Only when a state’s action becomes more regulatory in nature does it violate the clause.

Representing the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co., Miguel Estrada argued that the nature of the Indiana toll system is more free market and less regulatory.

“When the state furnishes a toll road in exchange for money, it provides an asset, which is a faster route while other routes remain available,” Estrada said.

In contrast to OOIDA’s arguments, Estrada said that the availability of alternate routes is relevant in this case. It is that freedom of choice, Estrada said, that makes the state a market participant and not a regulator. LL

Prepass
Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.