American Trucking Associations group opposes Rhode Island truck toll initiative

The American Trucking Associations urged rejection of a truck-only toll initiative proposed by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo this week.

“ATA is very disappointed with Governor Raimondo’s proposal to address Rhode Island’s infrastructure investment deficit solely on the back of the trucking industry,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves in a written statement.

“Trucking did not create the state’s current infrastructure crisis, that was the result of years of mismanagement and massive diversion of fuel tax and other highway user fee revenue to fund general government expenses, and it is completely unfair that the industry be targeted to fix it.”

The proposed toll is part of a recently introduced 10-year transportation plan called “RhodeWorks.”
ATA has long opposed tolling of existing interstates as inefficient and unsafe as it is known to lead to trucks diverting off larger interstates onto smaller, more congested local highways.

Graves, a former governor, said he understood the importance of not only properly funding infrastructure, but maintaining the state’s fiscal house. “However, this plan to toll only trucks is quite literally highway robbery, stealing from our industry to paper over Rhode Island’s budget issues.”

“Like nearly half the states have done previously, the state should enact a law that protects highway related revenues from being used for non-highway or transportation projects. Then they will have an accurate sense of what, if any, funding shortfall really exists before embarking on some enormously expensive, inefficient, easy to evade and discriminatory form of tax scheme.”

Darrin Roth, vice president of highway policy with ATA, said the issue with the proposed toll is that it’s only targeting trucks, which is unfair. “Trucks are not the only vehicles related to a transportation system. Tolls aren’t a good way to pay for infrastructure, especially on roads.” It is far more expensive to add tolls and then administer them on existing highways, he said.

Trucks already pay their fair share to support the nation’s tolls, he added. “Trucks who drive on the Rhode Island system pay 25 times more than cars,” Roth said.

For the average 18-wheeler, the cost is $5,053 dollars annually, Roth said, compared to $198 annually for the average car. Those figures include gas taxes and registration fee costs.

He also accused Road Island lawmakers of mismanaging its road, bridge and infrastructure funds.

“Rhode Island, for years, has been shifting highway user fee revenues away from highways and putting it into transit or to non-transportation purposes. The state has a significant funding shortfall they need more revs, so that rev should come from all system users.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.