Infrastructure is a major focus by lawmakers at the state and federal levels. We look around our cities and see roads that need repaving, crumbling bridges, “dead zones” for wireless communication, and more. However, the trucking industry may be targeted to carry the financial burden of the cost to repair our infrastructure.

Using Toll Roads to Offset Infrastructure Costs

Recently, the state of Rhode Island installed toll booths to generate revenue to pay for repairs to infrastructure within the state. In theory, this seemed like a good idea. Lots of people use highways, so installing tolls would be a great way to generate the capital needed for repairs. Unfortunately, private passenger vehicles did not have to pay the tolls. Only trucks were targeted. National commercial transportation groups took issue with this, and filed a lawsuit against the state of Rhode Island, claiming that truckers, many of whom were coming from other states, were being unfairly targeted by this new plan.

Infrastructure and States’ Rights

New England Motor Freight, M&M Transport Services, and Cumberland Farms are listed as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Rhode Island. While individual states have the ability to roll out plans to make improvements to infrastructure, they cannot violate federal laws in the process. In this case, the lawsuit filed by American Trucking Associations claims that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The Commerce Clause prevents states from passing any discriminatory legislation. The ATA and the other co-plaintiffs charge that forcing truckers to pay tolls to raise money for the infrastructure of a single state is discrimination. Since many of the trucks paying those tolls were from Virginia and other states, Rhode Island is seen as being at fault. Additionally, if only truckers are forced to pay the toll, and not private vehicles that also use the roads in Rhode Island, then the problem is even worse, according to the plaintiffs.

Express Freight Finance will continue to follow this case, as the outcome could greatly impact the trucking industry. In the end, if states want to raise money for infrastructure, targeting one group of law-abiding drivers is not the answer.