Federal trial underway on Rhode Island truck tolling

A federal court will soon be hearing oral arguments in a 4-year-old legal challenge to the state of Rhode Island’s trucks-only tolling program.  The trial in the lawsuit — filed by American Trucking Associations and two motor carriers over the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s tolling plan — opened May 23 and will be presided over by U.S. District Judge William Smith.

According to a report in Transport Topics, the ATA specifically alleges that the “RhodeWorks” trucks-only tolling plan violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against interstate commerce and out-of-state truckers in both “intent and effect.” ATA said, “The tolls do not reflect a fair approximation of the use of the tolled facility; and the tolls are excessive in relation to the benefits conferred.”

This clause is supposed to protect from discrimination against interstate commerce and out-of-state truckers. Overall, the ATA believes that the tolls implemented, and the benefits covered are not balanced.

ATA attorney Reginald Goeke commented, “With respect to the statements of the defendants themselves, the defendants make clear what their intent was — which is to protect in-state interests and load the burden on out-of-state trucks.” Goeke also claims that the Rhode Island tolling plan discriminates against Class 8 trucks. The toll collection began in the middle of 2018 but the ATA and DOT of Rhode Island have been discovering documents since July 2018.

The trucks-only tolling system was part of then-Gov. Gina Raimondo’s broader RhodeWorks program, which has been projected to generate $4.7 billion to finance infrastructure projects.

The trial brought economist Jonathon Peters to the stand where he confirmed that this tolling program disproportionately impacts only 3% of vehicles in the system which are a combination of trucks and trailers.