Truckers and industry experts are reeling over the recently proposed truck-only tolls aimed at financing a truck-only bridge – pointing out that the proposed toll prices are ‘unfair’ and based on old data. 

The plan for a new truck-only bridge over the Mobile River in Mobile, Alabama, was announced on Monday, March 22nd. Under the current $725 million plan, trucks would be banned from using the current I-10 Wallace bridge and would be required to use the new truck-only bridge. The catch? Under the current proposal this truck-only bridge would hit truckers with tolls as between $10 and $15. 

As the news of this plan spreads, truck drivers and trucking associations are looking into what these high tolls could mean for their business, and they don’t like what they see. 

“It’s kind of unfair,” said T.J. Preyer, a manager with Heartsdale Trucking. “It will impact our business depending on how much it is. We have loads going daily, as many as 12 per day to Pensacola. So it’s an every day thing for us to go across (the I-10 Bayway).”

“If we have to pay tolls, we have to pass that cost along,” Preyer continued to AL News. “In all honesty, I hope the bridge comes to fruition. But I hope they come up with a different system in regard to tolls. If it’s just for truck drivers, it’s not fair.”

According to the 2017 data used to determine the potential truck tolls, approximately 10% of the daily traffic through the Wallace Tunnel is truck traffic. This means that only 10% of traffic flow will soon be expected to pay 100% of the cost of improvements aimed at reducing congestion and increasing safety. 

“They [truckers] are asking questions like, ‘If we are 5-10% of the traffic count, is it fair to bear the 100% of the cost?’” said Mark Colson, president & CEO with the Alabama Trucking Association.

In addition to the skewed cost burden, drivers and trucking associations say that the data collected in 2017 is likely outdated, and needs to be reexamined before any serious advances are made in the project, citing growth at state docks and increased shipping in general. 

“Those numbers have likely gone up with growth at the State Docks and increased shipping in general,” said Tony Harris, spokesman with the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“We believe the concept has potential, but ultimately, it’s the continued support of local leaders and residents that will determine the path forward,” Harris said, adding that, assuming planning organizations get on board with the bridge plan, “some very detailed analysis on truck volumes” will soon be conducted by the Alabama Department of Transportation. 

“I am sure business and industry leaders in south Alabama will be interested to see ALDOT’s updated traffic study,” said Lee Lawson, president & CEO with the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance.

“If it takes a separate bridge and a toll, I guess that is how you progress, but it’s not fun to think about … the toll part,” said Ralph Amos, vice president of Southern Intermodal Xpress LLC, adding that “it’s too soon to tell” just how the proposed truck tolls would affect the local trucking industry.