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R.I. governor signs bill to crack down on bridge toll violators



Television station WPRI reported in April that motorists crossing the Pell Bridge racked up $9.6 million in unpaid tolls plus fees and fines over the last six years. (Courtesy: AD MESKENS)

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  — Rhode Island’s governor has signed legislation aimed at cracking down on people who repeatedly fail to pay their bridge tolls.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday signed the bill that lawmakers approved last month.

Under the new law, introduced by state House Majority Whip John G. Edwards and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, the number of infractions for a person to be considered a “toll violator” has been reduced from 20 to 10. The act also reduces the number of infractions for a person to be considered a “toll evader” from 100 to 20.

“When drivers rack up that many toll violations, it becomes unfair to everyone else who diligently pays the tolls every time they go over a tolled bridge,” Edwards said in a statement. “It unfairly shifts the financial burden of maintaining those bridges to other users. And we owe it to taxpayers to see that those projects are funded in a fair and equitable manner.”

Toll violators are reported to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. The violators cannot renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations until any unpaid toll amounts, administrative fees, and fines are paid to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

Toll evaders may receive a traffic violation summons to the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, which may suspend the toll evader’s driver’s license for up to six months and assess a fine of up to $500, or both.

“When you have electronic tolling, such as E-Z Pass, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have toll violators,” DiPalma said in a statement. “For those few who don’t take the bridge tolls seriously, this legislation will give us a way to get their attention, and let them know that they’re going to be expected to pay the same as everyone else.”

WPRI reported in April that motorists crossing the Pell Bridge racked up $9.6 million in unpaid tolls plus fees and fines over the last six years.

They reported that the vast majority of the $9.6 million — 85% — represents fees and fines, meaning only about $1.4 million is actual unpaid tolls, according to Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Executive Director Buddy Croft.

Class 8 tractor trailers pay $10 to cross the bridge, according to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.



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Can you say oversized load!



That is big!


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The Nation

Diesel prices all but stagnant nationwide, less than 2-cent shift anywhere



The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide fell by 0.7 cents for the week ending July 22, to currently stand at $3.044 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The lack of movement in diesel prices continues a pattern that has been going on for the past month. On June 24, diesel was at 3.042, with changes of less than 1.5 cents every week in between.

Though tiny, the movement in diesel prices was nearly unanimous this past week, down in all but one region of the country.  That one exception was the Rocky Mountain region, where diesel rose 0.3 cents, to $2.978. Year-to-date, diesel prices are lower in every region, with the Rocky Mountain region again being the standout, having the greatest difference, 39.1 cents from this time last year.

California made it a clean sweep for lower diesel prices year-to-date with a drop of 1.3 cents this past week, to $3.939, still by far the highest in the country, but 0.4 cents below this time last year.

Along the rest of the West Coast, diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $3.198, bringing the overall West Coast average to $3.611 per gallon.

The average along the East Coast is currently $3.072, with prices highest in the Central Atlantic, where diesel is going for $3.259 after a 1.3-cent drop. Diesel is $3.122 in New England following a decrease of 0.9 cents over the past week, while in the Lower Atlantic region diesel slipped by 0.4 cents to stand at $2.937 per gallon.

That’s still slightly better than the Midwest, where diesel is going for $2.948 per gallon after a drop of 0.8 cents. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast, the low-price leader in diesel, fell by the same 0.1 cent it gained the week before to stand at $2.804.

On Monday, increasing tensions between Iran and Western countries failed to produce a sharp reaction in the crude oil markets. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents, or 1.57%, to settle at $63.45 a barrel. U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude rose 59 cents, or 1.06%, to settle at $56.22 a barrel.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

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The Nation

DOL opinion letter: Time in sleeper berth does not count as compensable time



The Department of Labor says the time a truck driver spends in the sleeper berth is not compensable time. Pictured in the Peterbilt 579 UltraLoft sleeper berth. (Courtesy: PETERBILT MOTORS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday said it had determined that time spent in the sleeper berth by professional truck drivers while otherwise relieved from duty does not count as compensable time.

The DOL issued the determination in a written opinion letter by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.

The American Trucking Associations lauded the opinion.

“ATA welcomes Monday’s opinion letter from DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton that concluded time spent by a commercial driver in the sleeper berth does not count as compensable hours under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unless the driver is actually performing work or on call,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This opinion, which is consistent with decades-old DOL regulations, the weight of judicial authority, and the long understanding of the trucking industry, clears up confusion created by two recent court decisions that called the compensability of sleeper berth time into question.

Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance, the DOL said.

Under prior guidance, the DOL said WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where “adequate facilities” were furnished, only up to eight hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours.

“WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable,” the opinion letter said. “There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.”

The ATA commended Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella and Stanton for adopting a straightforward, plain-language reading of the law, rather than the burdensome alternative interpretation embraced by those outlier decisions.

“ATA also commends the department for making guidance like this available through opinion letters, which provide an opportunity for stakeholders to better understand their compliance obligations prospectively, rather than settling such matters only after the fact, through costly and wasteful litigation,” Spear said.



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