After years of citizen outrage against truck tolls in the Ocean State, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and three motor carriers representing the industry are bringing a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island on constitutional grounds. Critics have long warned that truck tolls would drive up the cost of groceries, medicine, and other items necessary in family budgets. Now, Rhode Island taxpayers could be on the hook for millions of dollars in added costs in legal fees from the suit.
The lawsuit argues that the truck-toll-only scheme violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state trucking companies and by designing the tolls in a way that does not fairly approximate motorists’ use of the roads.
“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,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “It is unfortunate that Governor Raimondo and her administration did not heed those warnings, but now we will see them in court.”
In the complaint, the ATA along with Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight, contend that the tolls fall exclusively on the types of trucks that are most likely to be engaged in the interstate transport of cargo making the tolls discriminatory. They point out that, by design, automobiles and the smaller vehicles that are also relatively more likely to be engaged in intrastate travel are exempt.
Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association and leading opposition voice, pronounced, ““From the outset of this debate, Rhode Island’s trucking industry and business community stepped forward as viable partners for long-overdue infrastructure investment in our state. Instead of considering our perspective, Rhode Island’s legislators, led by Governor Raimondo and Speaker Mattiello, marginalized us, dismissed us and chose the unfortunate path of designing, building and executing an unlawful and unequitable scheme of truck-only tolling. The result is this lawsuit.”
As a result of the outcry against the tolling program, the Gaspee Business Network (GBN) formed to oppose similar attacks on Rhode Island business. The mission of GBN is to build a durable, potent, consistent, and incorruptible voice for the Rhode Island business community. They plan to hold lawmakers accountable for their anti-business records during the 2018 election season. With the possibility of added millions of dollars in legal costs to Rhode Island taxpayers as a result of the lawsuit, it is yet to be seen if Rhode Island voters will follow their lead in the ballot box.