The American Trucking Assns.filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Newark, NJ, saying a New Jersey state regulation that severely limits interstate tractor-trailer travel through the state is unconstitutional.
In asking for an injunction, the ATA says the ban unreasonably burdens interstate commerce and discriminates against interstate trucking.
The regulation restricts 102-inch-wide trucks and double trailer-truck combinations from using New Jersey State highways and county roads as through routes between National Network highways if the trip does not originate or terminate within New Jersey. U.S. Xpress of Chattanooga, TN, a national truckload motor carrier engaged in interstate travel through New Jersey, joined ATA in the lawsuit.
"The U.S. Constitution's provision on interstate commerce means that a state cannot place an unreasonable burden on trucks driving through that state," said Walter B. McCormick, Jr., ATA President and CEO. "The New Jersey ban is especially unfair because the same size trucks beginning or terminating their trip inside the state are not subject to this burdensome restriction."
The ATA lawsuit also questions the state's enforcement process, including whether untrained police officers can visually verify whether a moving tractor-trailer is 102 inches or 96 inches wide. Officers cannot determine the trip origin or destination of a moving tractor-trailer, and stopping every tractor-trailer to make this determination could create additional roadside safety problems for truck drivers, police officers, and other motorists.
According to published reports, the ban has reduced truck traffic by as much as 30% on some roads. On Route 31 in northern Mercer County, average commercial truck traffic has dropped from 2,000 a day to 1,400 to 1,500 a day.
The lawsuit comes just two weeks after legislation was signed that sets penalties for offenders. The restriction was put into place last summer by the governor's executive order.
The defendants in the lawsuit are New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Department of Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein, Colonel Carson Dunbar, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, and Attorney General John J. Farmer Jr.
Beth L. Law, Chief Counsel of the ATA Litigation Center, and Michael L. Rodburg and Richard F. Ricci of the New Jersey law firm of Lowenstein Sandler, will represent ATA.