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

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

Rhode Island Truck 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.

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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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