NATSO, and a coalition of state trucking associations, fleets and other highway users, told the First Circuit that Rhode Island’s truck tolling program unconstitutionally interfered with interstate commerce, targeted commercial trucks and therefore the state should not be allowed to reassess its bridge tolls.
NATSO on June 1 filed an Amicus Brief urging the appeals court to affirm U.S. District Judge William Smith’s September 2022 ruling that barred the state from collecting truck tolls on 14 state bridges as part of its RhodeWorks program.
NATSO was joined in filing the Amicus by the American Highway Users Alliance, the Intermodal Association of North America, and several state trucking associations.
"Instead of designing a fair, user-based scheme to raise its revenue goals, Rhode Island started with the foundational premise that it would be more politically palatable to make out-of-state users foot the overwhelming majority of the bill," the amici groups said in their brief. "Simply put, Rhode Island decided it wanted to impose a tolling system that inflicted little to no pain on locals, who are the primary users of Rhode Island's bridges. Its backfilled justifications are implausible and irrational," they added.
"If RhodeWorks tolls were 'like all per-use road tolls,' they would charge all trucks and all passenger vehicles that cross Rhode Island bridges. But RhodeWorks only targets trucks, not all users," the amici groups said. "Even worse, RhodeWorks only applies to Class 8 trucks and above. So, the trucks Rhode Island identified as most likely to be registered in Rhode Island do not pay to cross a Rhode Island bridge while the tolls paid by out-of-state trucks subsidize their use. Although the state understands what a 'fair approximation' toll should look like, they deliberately failed to implement one."
Marking a major victory for NATSO members in the longstanding fight against tolling existing Interstate highways, a Federal judge in September 2022 ruled that Rhode Island’s truck-only tolling system known as “RhodeWorks” is unconstitutional and ordered the state to stop charging tolls on tractor trailers.
NATSO and the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (of which NATSO is a founding member) have worked since 2018 to stop the “RhodeWorks” plan alongside the Rhode Island Trucking Association and the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
ATA, Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight sued Rhode Island arguing that the "RhodeWorks" plan violates the Constitution’s Commerce clause by discriminating against out-of-state economic interests.
The "RhodeWorks" plan sought to implement truck-only tolls across 14 bridges throughout the state. Rhode Island would have been the first state to toll only trucks and an entire network of Interstate highways.
Judge William E. Smith wrote in his ruling: "Because RhodeWorks fails to fairly apportion its tolls among bridge users based on a fair approximation of their use of the bridges, was enacted with a discriminatory purpose, and is discriminatory in effect, the statute’s tolling regime is unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution."
NATSO and ATFI worked closely with the Rhode Island Trucking Association to generate public awareness about the devastating effects that the "RhodeWorks" plan would have had on local businesses and commercial truck drivers that operate within the state of Rhode Island.
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