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Federal judge dismisses ATA suit over Rhode Island’s truck tolls



Federal judge dismisses ata suit over rhode island’s truck tolls
The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) said his organization supports the state’s RhodeWorks plan to use truck tolls as one of many revenue streams to rebuild major bridges in the state. (Courtesy: STATE OF RHODE ISLAND)

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit over Rhode Island’s new truck tolls Tuesday, finding that the court lacks jurisdiction and the case should be brought in the state court system.

Rhode Island began tolling trucks in June as part of an infrastructure plan to repair bridges and roads. The American Trucking Associations sued in U.S. District Court.

“ATA is disappointed by the decision, in which the U.S. District Court ruled that it was without power to hear ATA’s constitutional challenge to the discriminatory RhodeWorks truck-only tolls, and that the challenge must instead be brought in state court,” said ATA Deputy General Counsel Rich Pianka. “ATA is reviewing the decision and considering next steps, but looks forward to vindicating its underlying claims on the merits, whatever the venue.”

The ATA argued in its lawsuit that the tolls violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause and pose a discriminatory and disproportionate burden on out-of-state operators and truckers. Cumberland Farms, New England Motor Freight and M&M Transport Services are also plaintiffs.

The state argued that the federal court cannot restrain the collection of state taxes, such as tolls, and state matters should be adjudicated in state court.

Christopher Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, said the judge’s decision doesn’t speak to the merits of the claims, only the venue in which to bring them. He said it’ll be up to American Trucking Associations to decide how to proceed. The Rhode Island Trucking Association is a member of the national group.

Connecticut officials have been watching the Rhode Island case closely. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who ran for office supporting tolls only on big rigs, included two tolling options for lawmakers to consider in his new budget: tolling just trucks or tolling everyone. Lamont’s administration has estimated Connecticut could reap $200 million in annual revenue from truck tolls and about $800 million from tolls on cars and trucks.

In recent weeks, the governor has made it clear he is now leaning toward supporting the more wide-ranging tolls to help generate the revenue needed to address Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure needs.

Maribel La Luz, a spokeswoman for Lamont, said Tuesday’s dismissal of the truckers’ lawsuit “confirms what we already believed to be true,” that “the road to resolution of this case will be long and winding, and ultimately, we don’t believe it will provide the clarity, or revenue, that Connecticut needs to truly enhance and upgrade its infrastructure system.”

La Luz said Lamont’s wider ranging tolling proposal “is the path forward if we are serious about supporting our state’s economic growth and development, particularly when 40 percent of the costs for such an investment would be paid for by people who don’t even live in our state.”

Patrick Jones executive director and CEO on the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) said his organization supports the state’s plan to use truck tolls as one of many revenue streams to rebuild major bridges in the state.

“Large majorities of Americans support greater investment in infrastructure,” he said. “While the judge who dismissed the lawsuit did not address the merits of the case, we remain hopeful that no court will deny Rhode Island, or any state, the ability to assess user fees including tolls to rebuild its vital bridges and highways.”

The Connecticut General Assembly’s Transportation Committee was scheduled to vote Wednesday on several bills that could lead to tolls on state highways. While none would institute truck-only tolls, the Rhode Island court decision is likely to come up during the debate.

In Rhode Island, only two out of 14 proposed toll gantries are in place. The governor’s budget proposal estimates tolls will generate about $7 million in the current budget year and $25 million for the budget year starting July 1. The projections are much lower than previous revenue estimates due to delays in permitting and environmental assessments for the additional gantries.

Rhode Island lawmakers authorized the toll system in 2016 as part of a $5 billion, decade-long plan to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, projecting then that the entire system would bring in $450 million over 10 years.









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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ron Mitchell

    March 22, 2019 at 6:05 am

    If you can’t fine the truckers $7 million for crossing the Pawtucket Bridge then just toll them. So much for federal aid and fuel tax.

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The Nation

Rhode Island DOT looks to hike trucks-only tolls amid court battle; public input sought



Rhode island dot wanting to hike rates on trucks-only toll system while court battle continues; public comment sought
A truck passes through one of Rhode Island's six operating toll gantries. (courtesy: Providence Journal)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As the Connecticut legislature prepares to vote this week on Gov. Ned Lamont’s controversial and long-debated “trucks only” toll proposal, a similar system in Rhode Island continues to operate while legal action to overturn the tolls is underway.

The original Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) proposal to charge tolls on trucks only included 14 locations, all bridges RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient. Tolls collected at each bridge would be used to repair and upgrade the specific location.

RIDOT is accepting public comment through March 1 on a plan to increase the toll on a newly installed gantry at the Oxford Street Bridge in Providence, a bridge crossing Interstate 95. The original toll for the bridge was set at $2.25 per trip; however, RIDOT is studying the cost-benefit ratio of doubling the rate to $4.50. RIDOT representatives requesting comment on the proposed increase claim the increase is really no increase at all; it is simply an effort to maintain the revenue forecast from the 14 gantries included in the original tolling proposal.

Currently, Rhode Island has constructed toll gantries at six of the originally planned locations; however, as the program has moved forward, two locations have been temporarily or permanently delayed. Rather than adjusting anticipated total revenue based on 12 locations, Gov. Gina Raimondo has instead directed RIDOT officials to study and request rate hikes at specific bridges. The toll hikes will allow Rhode Island to collect the same $45 million forecast from the 14 original gantries. This new twist on a toll program already challenged as unconstitutional by the American Trucking Associations, and one which an appellate court has ruled Rhode Island must face in a lawsuit, is leading the trucking industry and toll opposition to question RIDOT’s language in press releases and discussions on the issue.

Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, said, “This should serve to reinforce concerns over the unbridled power and discretion given to RIDOT and further feeds the suspicion and skepticism of Rhode Island’s business owners about the end game of this scheme.”

Maxwell’s comments come on the heels of an already approved increased toll rate at another location in Providence. The Route 6 bridge over the Woonasquatucket River was increased from $2.00 to $5.00 last fall.

Maxwell also expressed concern about changing the still new tolls program when original approval was based on environmental impact studies. “From a legal standpoint,” he said, “these ‘on the fly’ changes would seem to undermine and violate the purpose and extent of the environmental impact assessments.”
Other opponents to the Oxford Street bridge toll increase note that the bridge does not fall into the criteria RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient, meaning revenue from the toll would be used at other locations, a provision not included in the tolling plan.

From RIDOT’s perspective, not only is the proposed toll rate increase not really an increase, it is also going to save the state money. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said that the infrastructure costs of eliminating two planned toll locations will result in lower implementation costs.

“Our thinking is we’ll forgo building [a gantry] at the viaduct in Providence, or at least while the viaduct is being built,” Alviti said on WPRO radio. “We’ll assign the toll amount we were going to collect there to the next nearest location, which is Oxford Street.”

Chris Maxwell believes he has a full understanding of RIDOT’s intent. “[They] deliberately chose the most densely traveled tool location in the who scheme to further their insatiable appetite to soak businesses, consumers, and taxpayers,” he said in an interview with Transport Topics.

RIDOT is justifying its proposed action based on the original toll proposal’s expectation of generating $45 million in revenue. In any event, Peter Alviti says, truckers traveling I-95 through Rhode Island will still be paying $20.00 per trip.

When is an increase not an increase? It depends on what your definition of increase is. For those wanting to comment, emails can be sent to or comments can be submitted in writing to Jay McGinn, P.E., Project Manager II RIDOT, 2 Capitol Hill, Providence RI 02903. Following cutoff date for comments on March 1, the new rate will be implemented on March 5.

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The Nation

Pink power: RTI lease-purchase operator spreads breast-cancer awareness



Brittney Richardson poses with a group at a breast cancer awareness walk
Brittney Richardson, center wearing pink, poses with a group in front of her pink Volvo at a Kansas City breast-cancer walk. (Courtesy: Brittney Richardson)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When now 36-year-old Brittney Richardson said she wanted to go to CDL school, a lot of her friends told her they didn’t think she had it in her. Now, 8 years later she is traveling the country in a bright pink Volvo as a lease-purchase driver for Riverside Transport Inc.

Even without immediate support from friends and family, Richardson is never one to back down from a challenge. She said that if anything, discouraging comments only empowered her.

“Almost everyone told me I’d fail,” Richardson said. “So in January 2012 I set off to truck school and six weeks later I graduated top of my class and found myself quickly in a semi going across country.”

What most who doubted her didn’t know was that Richardson had developed an interest in driving trucks when she gained some experience while working with fire departments in both southwest Kansas and central Missouri.

“I was hooked,” she said. “I loved the challenge of learning to drive a big truck and loved even more the shock when people saw it was a woman driving.”

But how did she wind up with a truck that can be spotted miles away? Short answer: she simply walked into the RTI office and came out with an opportunity to serve as a company ambassador. RTI was looking for someone to lease-purchase the bright pink 2019 Volvo and help to raise breast-cancer awareness while also inspiring women to join the industry. She sent in a video competing for the position, and she was selected.

Although the truck’s exterior design is a bit uncommon on the roads, the 2019 Volvo is still driven coast-to-coast as a work truck for RTI. Other than documenting her journey on her YouTube channel and serving as an ambassador, Richardson said she is a normal lease-purchase operator.

Driving the pink Volvo, however, does get Richardson plenty of attention, and she has encountered several fans who have drawn a personal connection to the truck’s message. Although there are more than she can count, she shared a few notable interactions with The Trucker.

“I had an older gentleman come up to my window in Ohio in tears,” Richardson said. “He shared a heart-felt story about losing his wife to cancer and thanked me so much for driving for awareness. I see people waving with enthusiasm in passing cars, people giving thumbs up and running up to get photos with the truck.”

Richardson has found that the truck also accomplishes the mission of showing young girls that women do in fact drive 18-wheelers as she travels across the country.

“One day I passed a school bus in northern Ohio and there was a row of girls on the right side of the bus as it passed me,” she said. “The girls got so excited about seeing a pink truck. This one girl who was maybe in the sixth grade smiled so big, whipped her head around to tell her friends to look at the pink truck. I am so blessed to have these moments on dash cam over the last year. I couldn’t help but wonder if that moment inspired another little girl to do something she didn’t think she could do one day.”

Chelsee Patton, Director of Recruiting at RTI said that Richardson is a great example of a company ambassador, and she and Toya Cosby, who drives a 2020 pink Freightliner, help to promote women in the industry and raise breast-cancer awareness in a unique way.

“Brittney is a great driver at RTI, and we are incredibly lucky to have her on our team and have her showcase her trucking journey in her pink truck,” Patton said.

Richardson said her main role as an ambassador is to inspire and support women (and men) in the trucking industry as well as represent RTI as a company that stands with women in the industry and give them all the support needed to succeed.

Although Richardson doesn’t have a personal connection to breast cancer, she does have an interest in inspiring others, which is evident through her Brittney Richardson YouTube channel. She also hosts American Trucker on YouTube, which is maintained separately and geared toward anyone in the trucking industry.

“One night I decided to bring the camera along and film my night at work in the truck,” Richardson said. “It was an instant hit and the amount of people who responded back that I had made there day was unreal. That’s when I really realized I could inspire a lot of people by simply sharing my life on film.”

Richardson also documents her journey in the pink Volvo on her Facebook page, Brittney in Pink.

Richardson said she gets feedback from both male and female drivers who tell her she is an inspiration to them. She sees photos of new trucks and driving certificates, which she said keeps her going and continues her passion to inspire others both inside and outside of the trucking industry.

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The Nation

Moving America forward: Joe Pryor is spreading kindness through trucking



Joe Pryor of Pennsylvania
Joe Pryor, Pennsylvania (Courtesy: Trucking Moves America Forward)

To celebrate the modern-day achievements of African Americans in the trucking industry, Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) has selected four drivers who exemplify excellence in trucking. They were selected because of their professionalism and dedication to their jobs, commitment to safety and continuous efforts to move America forward every day.

The drivers are being featured on TMAF’s blog and social media pages throughout the month of February as well as on The The stories highlight the drivers’ accomplishments and safety records and share the personal story of each driver. This is the third of four features in the series.

Moving America forward: Joe Pryor is spreading kindness through trucking

Joe Pryor has been a professional truck driver for 19 years. Originally from Pittsburg, also known as the “Steel City,” Pryor’s early career was as a fireman. As a firefighter, Pryor learned to drive trucks.

After retiring as a firefighter, Pryor joined the trucking industry and has been driving for Jet Express, Inc. since he moved to Dayton, Ohio in 2001.

Pryor is passionate about his job and enjoys working for Jet Express. During an interview with TMAF, Pryor said the trucking industry is an exciting one and one that has been good to him. Pryor describes his job as a truck driver as fun. When asked what he loves most about trucking, Pryor said one of the reasons is that you get to meet a lot of different people, such as customers, while driving a truck. Drivers also get to see different parts of a city or state.

While on the road, Pryor is safety oriented, and strives to be one of the most courteous drivers on the nation’s highways. Pryor told TMAF that patience is critical to the job. Pryor is always willing to lend a helping hand to those who need it and goes above and beyond to help other drivers in the industry. Pryor said, “If I can help someone, I’m going to.”

At Jet Express, Pryor works with new hires as a trainer and handles their road tests. When giving advice to new drivers, Pryor highlights the importance of patience and kindness while on the road and on the job. Pryor also tells drivers to prioritize safety: that includes always scanning the road, paying attention and remaining alert. During inclement weather, such as rain or snow, Pryor tells drivers to take their time and be careful. New hires know if they have any questions, they can always call him.

When describing the industry, Pryor said, “Trucking is what keeps this world going…truck drivers deliver everything you rely on.” Pryor also discussed the great job opportunities available within the industry. “There’s a lot of demand for drivers,” he added. “Freight keeps coming and coming.”

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