- The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and three truck carriers have filed a suit to block Rhode Island's program to collect highway tolls from Class 8 trucks. Tolls are collected at two locations currently; the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) plans to expand to 12 locations in total by mid-2019.
- RIDOT targeted large commercial trucks to recover some of the $4.9 billion in road maintenance expenditures as part of the RhodeWorks plan to fund bridge maintenance and repair.
- The suit says the toll legislation unconstitutionally targets trucks involved in interstate commerce and does not proportionately share the maintenance burden with other types of vehicles.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the trucks-only toll scheme as unconstitutional and seek a permanent injunction against continued implementation or enforcement of the truck-only tolls and attorneys’ fees.
In the suit, the ATA, Cumberland Farms, M&M Transport Services and New England Motor Freight allege the toll violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it discriminates against out-of-state trucking companies. The program limits the tolls collected from trucks that make multiple trips within Rhode Island in a single day, which the suit says favors operators engaged in intrastate commerce.
Also, the toll program does not fairly approximate the uses of bridge and highways by autos, exempt trucks and other vehicles by discriminating against out-of-state truck drivers, the suit said.
The toll program has been controversial since it was announced.
"Since RhodeWorks was first proposed, the trucking industry has been strong and united in opposition to this extortionate plan. We’ve warned politicians in Rhode Island that these truck-only tolls were unconstitutional and should be rolled back," ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a press release.
RIDOT's estimates show that the large commercial tractor-trailers subject to the toll comprise only an estimated 2.5% of weekday traffic and 0.8% of weekend traffic through the proposed toll sites. according to the suit.
According to the RhodeWorks Tolling Program, rates range from $2.00 to $9.00 per transit through the toll site. At the first two locations, the tolls cost $3.25 and $3.50, respectively, and can be charged only once per day in each direction.
The program limits tolls to $20 in the case of the same individual large commercial truck making a border-to-border trip on Route 95 Connecticut to Route 95 Massachusetts, or the reverse. The total daily amount collected from the same truck will not exceed $40. For trucks with E-ZPass transponders, the tolls will be charged to the truck’s account. For trucks without E-ZPass the registered owner will receive a bill.