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Federal judge delivers serious setback in fight against truck-only tolls


This week, a federal judge dismissed a trucking industry lawsuit meant to push back against Rhode Island’s controversial truck-only tolling program.

On Tuesday, March 19, Rhode Island’s U.S. District Court Chief Judge William Smith dismissed a lawsuit brought forth by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), according to court documents. Smith said that he decided to dismiss the suit because he found that the truck-only tolls were really a form of targeted tax and therefore the case should be heard in state, not federal, court.

He wrote:

Here, the facts are clear that the fees, while dubbed ‘tolls,’ are really a highly targeted and sophisticated tax designed to fund infrastructure maintenance and improvements that would otherwise need to be paid for by other forms of tax-generated revenue.As such, the Court is without jurisdiction under the [Tax Injunction Act]; the federal case must be dismissed and ultimately heard in the courts of Rhode Island.

The lawsuit was filed last July after the tolls went into effect in June as a means of funding infrastructure repairs in Rhode Island. The lawsuit argued that truck-only tolls are a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause and that they discriminate against out-of-state truckers.

The ATA told the Providence Journal that they are disappointed in the judge’s decision and that they are considering their options for moving forward.

Convenience store chain Cumberland Farms, the now-bankrupt and shuttered New England Motor Freight, and M&M Transport Services were also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Some trucking industry experts fear that if the fight against truck-only tolls is lost in Rhode Island, it could open the door for other states to try to generate revenue by tolling trucks.


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