Fleet Management

ATA Warns Rhode Island on Policing Truck-Toll Dodging

January 21, 2016

By David Cullen

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Map shows 11 of 14 proposed locations for truck-only tolls in Rhode Island. Image: RI DOT
Map shows 11 of 14 proposed locations for truck-only tolls in Rhode Island. Image: RI DOT

The American Trucking Associations has weighed in on the months-long legislative battle over implementing truck-only tolls in Rhode Island by cautioning the governor against banking on revenues from the proposed tolls that are “premised on truck restrictions that are currently disallowed by federal and/or state law.”

In a Jan. 18 letter to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimando (D), ATA Vice President and Acting Counsel Richard Pianka said that in a Jan. 5 letter on the preliminary location of proposed toll gantries, “Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti, Jr. suggested that he has received a commitment from State Police Superintendent O’Donnell to prevent trucks from exiting highways to avoid paying tolls.”

In that letter, Alviti stated that he’d been “assured” that the State Police “will take action once the [toll] gantries are erected to prevent large commercial trucks from exiting the highways to avoid the user fees.”

Pianka went on to caution that “Putting aside the lack of current state legal authority afforded to law enforcement agencies to conduct such action, even if state law is amended, federal law imposes superseding limitations on states’ authority to restrict large trucks.

"These limitations may prevent, in part or in whole, Rhode Island’s ability to prevent trucks from exiting highways to avoid paying a toll," he added.

Pianka closed by recommending that Rhode Island “consult with the Federal Highway Administration’s regional office prior to proposing legislation aimed at restricting large trucks, in order to ensure that any contemplated action is consistent with federal law. We also recommend that you inform legislators and members of the public that both state and federal law impose limitations on the state’s authority to prevent trucks from using alternate routes to avoid tolls.”

Copied on Pianka’s letter were Rhode Island’s top legislators, Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D) and Senate President M. Theresa Paiva-Weed (D).

The Rhode Island Trucking Association, an affiliate of ATA, is battling against the truck-toll legislation. Dubbed RhodeWorks, the proposal calls for fixing more than 150 structurally deficient bridges and making repairs to another 500 bridges “to prevent them from becoming deficient.” It would invest an additional $1 billion above current plans in transportation infrastructure.

Part of the funding would be derived from truck tolls, to be used to finance $500 million in repairs and replacements of aging bridges. The tolls are expected to raise between $60 million and $100 million a year.

The toll scheme was proposed in 2015 by Gov. Gina Raimondo (D). On Jun. 23, just before adjourning for the year, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the bill by a 33-4 vote along party lines.

While the Democrats (63-11-1) also hold the majority (63-11-1) in the House, it appears the tolling measure won’t pass that chamber quickly or easily during the current legislative session.

“It is fair to ask how a Rhode Island trooper is expected to know when a truck is purposely diverting a toll and when they are getting off the highway to make a delivery– or quite frankly just going home,” said RITA president Chris Maxwell on the legal issue raised by ATA, per a Providence Journal report. “We intend to fight any legislative initiative that will create a police state for the trucking industry.”

Related: For Whom the Bridge Is Tolled


  1. 1. Rick Gaskill [ January 22, 2016 @ 03:40AM ]

    Carriers should boost rates on loads going through RI but they won't. Just another excuse to keep driver pay low.

  2. 2. D Blakeley [ January 22, 2016 @ 04:52AM ]

    Delware does the same. They buit a bridge with truck money and then restricted the bridge to trucks. Restricted roads off the interstate and charge more for tolls. Got to love it. GM and Chrysler left the state, Dupont is leaving. Go figure.

  3. 3. MMJ Transfer [ January 22, 2016 @ 06:00AM ]

    Toll is a fancy word for TAX. Politicians are creative in collecting tax revenue. I wouldn't have a problem with RI tolling, if they tolled ALL vehicles. Attacking the trucking industry is impeding the flow of commerce. Someone may want to check on this, but I believe under the Patriot Act "Impeding the flow of interstate commerce is an act of terrorism." Now the politicians/attorney's will argue that law was implied for another issue. The reality is that it is LAW. Until congress changes it we need to argue on that basis.

  4. 4. BarbRRB [ January 22, 2016 @ 12:34PM ]

    It is not the bridge in Delaware. Restrict trucks because they use it to run toll's. I use that road. Our customer is on the other side of that bridge in the industrial park. Newark police and Delaware DOT officer works that road. Have had a few conversations with them. It is all about the toll's. I sometimes go right through Newark, some college kids have there nose stuck in their phones and do not look walking into the roadway. Sad but true, Delaware's actions to force trucks through a college town shows money is priority over safety. My opinion. Rhode Island needs to use their funding appropriately, just like the Government. Spending millions of Highway money for "studies on truck drivers", 34 hour re-start is a prime example.


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