January 28, 2016 11:45 AM, EST
ATA Supports Rhode Island Trucking in Tolling Dispute With Governor
Scott Eells/Bloomberg News
American Trucking Associations is supporting the Rhode Island Trucking Association’s strong opposition to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s toll-based transportation plan.

Richard Pianka, ATA’s acting general counsel, chided Raimondo for tolls based on "truck restrictions that are currently disallowed by federal and/or state law."

ATA is especially incensed about Raimondo’s suggestion that the state police should prevent trucks from exiting highways to avoid paying tolls.

"We also recommend that you inform legislators and members of the public that both state and federal law impose limitations on the state's authority to prevent trucks from using alternate routes to avoid tolls,'' Pianka wrote, citing a letter from Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti to State Police Superintendent Col. Steven O’Donnell.

Raimondo’s office hasn’t responded to ATA's letter.

Rhode Island Trucking CEO Chris Maxwell, who has been engaged in a long-running battle with the governor over tolling, had asked ATA to review correspondence and media statements by Raimondo and O’Donnell related to toll enforcement.

Maxwell wonders how police would be able to tell when trucks were exiting to avoid tolls or exiting to make a delivery or go home.

“There are federal laws in place that provide truckers the right to access local roadways,” Maxwell said. “The governor has raised an issue and not provided any details of how this enforcement plan would work. At this juncture, we are very concerned about any plan that may interrupt the flow of commerce or add greater burdens and cost to the trucking industry.”

Raimondo and state legislative leaders have been discussing her toll-based bridge repair plan, including toll rates and an incentive package to compensate local trucking companies. If too many trucks avoid the tolls, that could threaten Rhode Island’s ability to pay a proposed bond.

In a letter to lawmakers, Raimondo wrote that O’Donnell had given her his commitment the state police would “take action” to prevent trucks from leaving highways to avoid tolls. O’Donnell told Transport Topics that legislation might be needed to prohibit all large trucks from certain local roads.

Pianka's letter, which he copied to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, said federal law trumps state law and requires states to "provide reasonable access … to facilities that provide food, fuel, repairs and rest, and to facilities for loading and unloading of cargo. Any state-imposed restrictions on that reasonable access must be based on specific safety considerations.''