The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island is warning about the absence of privacy protections from the state’s truck-toll network — namely that the network has the ability to expose a large amount of driver data.

Rhode Island has proposed regulations that would prevent the truck-toll network from collecting driver data. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) calls this lack of privacy a “significant omission”.

RIDOT has scheduled a meeting to discuss proposed regulations for today at 2 p.m. They plan to assess penalties to toll evaders, according to Providence Journal.

ACLU Raises Warning Flag On Rhode Island Truck Toll Program

Marcela Betancur, ACLU of RI policy associate, in a Thursday news release said:

It is imperative that these regulations include explicit privacy safeguards. This is a statewide network of toll gantries that has the potential to track and store vast amounts of information on all motorists. The absence of any regulatory safeguards is a significant omission.

In 2016, state lawmakers authorized truck tolls to collect information while passing through the toll using a network of optical highway scanners. This was done to prevent toll evaders from successfully passing through the truck toll. If the scan did not result in a toll then the truck and driver information was supposed to be discarded, but that has not always been the case. Since there have not been set policy governing the collection and use of this data drivers are at risk for major privacy invasion.

DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said the state still intends to make that a policy, but acknowledged it has no intention of codifying it in regulation. From this statement it seems, DOT plans to create a policy regarding this private information; however, they do not intend to set the policy as a regulation.

St Martin commented further in an email, “If the ACLU would have a higher comfort level with the policy as an integral part of the rules and regulations, we will take that into consideration.”

By the end of the year, DOT plans to begin collecting tolls from tractor-trailers. The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority will act as the collection agency.

St. Martin also wrote, “We would anticipate adapting [Turnpike and Bridge’s] policy accordingly and having a policy in place well before tolling begins.”

WPRI recently reported that Rhode Island could be targeting tractor-trailers by preventing them from using some roads that do not require tolls.

There are 15 routes that vary from Route 3 in Hopkinton to Route 1A in Warwick, to Route 122 in Pawtucket that would ban tractor-trailers from traveling. RIDOT’s goal seems to be collecting more tolls from truck drivers, so it is interesting that now they are also trying to pass a policy that focuses so heavily on toll evaders.

“We are asking the State Traffic Commission to help ensure that large commercial trucks do not use local roads and neighborhoods as throughways but rather that they stay on limited access interstates which are designed to accommodate them,” RIDOT spokesperson Lisbeth Pettengill said in a statement.

Rhode Island Considers Banning Trucks On Secondary Roads, Reportedly To Force Them To Use Toll Roads: Read more here.

The state has a 10-year contract with toll company worth $69 million. The expected amount collected by the new tolls is estimated to be about $45 million.

RIDOT may claim that the privacy safeguards are for the benefit of the truck driver, but in recent months RIDOT has demonstrated behaviors that are not in the best interest of the truck driver.

Truckers may get a toll bill by December from RIDOT: Read more here.