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Another State Eyeing Truck-Only Tolling

In the last election, Connecticut voters selected Democrat Ned Lamont to be their next governor. During the campaign, Lamont highlighted truck-only tolling as a way to raise needed revenue for the state. Recently, Lamont has reaffirmed his commitment to explore truck-only tolling in Connecticut. Lamont appears to be inspired by the neighboring state of Rhode Island, which only just began implementing its truck-only tolling program. The governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, is a champion of the truck-only tolling plan, and was reelected for another term in November. As shared in previous articles, the American Trucking Association is leading a lawsuit challenging the truck-only tolling program in federal court as a violation of the interstate commerce clause. That suit is ongoing.

Like Rhode Island, Connecticut is exploring ways to raise revenue to deal with crumbling infrastructure throughout the state. Governor-elect Lamont wishes to see tolling on “heavy trucks,” basing his position on the same assumptions that Rhode Island used to support its truck-only tolling program – namely, that heavy trucks cause more damage to roads and bridges. This is far from established fact, but it is common refrain used to support such programs. As Lamont said during his campaign, “some of our biggest trucks, coming in from out of state, using our roads, tax-free, create tons of maintenance issues.”

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) recently released the results of a tolling study that it was tasked with developing to explore tolling options throughout the state. That study outlined a plan to install 82 electronic tolling gantries throughout the state’s major interstates and highways. This study said that, under the proposal, the state could generate approximately $1 billion in annual revenues if all vehicles were subject to the tolls. Despite these numbers, Governor-elect Lamont still plans to target trucks only. Lamont states that tolling out-of-state, heavy trucks only should bring in about $250 million in revenues. The CTDOT’s study stated that it would cost about $372 million to install the system and about $100 million operate it each year. Ironically, the tolling report cost taxpayers $2,035,000, roughly equal to $23,391 per page. 

As expected, the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut is prepared to fight against any truck tolling plan in the state. Joe Sculley, the Association’s president, said tolls on trucks in the state “could double our tax burden overnight if it raises the money he’s [Lamont] talking about.” Sculley also points out that current policies such as fuel taxes, registration fees and other fees required of carriers help pay for out-of-state trucks’ use of Connecticut roads. He is hoping to schedule a meeting with Governor-elect Lamont to educate him about these costs. To date, Lamont has not agreed to such a meeting.

The American Trucking Association is poised to support the opposition in Connecticut as it has done in other states, most notably Rhode Island. The ATA plans to continue its aggressive plan to combat any truck-only tolling plans. ATA President and CEO Chris Spear stated, “It’s ATA’s intention to ramp up its litigation center and leverage our full ability to influence outcomes.” The lawsuit against Rhode Island’s program will likely be the most consequential. There are reports from Connecticut that Governor-elect Lamont may wait to see how the Rhode Island suit is resolved before pressing forward with the enactment of Connecticut’s program.

The dialogue coming out of Connecticut shows how certain talking points about heavy trucking’s alleged affect on infrastructure can be used to gain voter support for truck-only tolling programs. Connecticut appears to be falling right in line with Rhode Island’s reasoning for such a program and general plan for implementation. It is important for Virginia voters to monitor these issues as the topic is under discussion in this state. The expansion of truck-only tolling programs also emphasizes the importance of staying informed and up-to-date on the arguments on all sides of the issue. It suggests why it may be beneficial for the industry in Virginia to be proactive about pushing back against truck-only tolling in the Commonwealth.

For more information about these issues, please contact Steve Setliff (804-377-1261) at ssetliff@setlifflaw.com, and for information on how you can become involved with respect to Virginia’s truck-only tolling law, please contact VTA President Dale Bennett (804-355-5371) at dbennett@vatrucking.org.