As some in the trucking industry feared, Rhode Island’s plan to make only trucks pay tolls within its borders has another state thinking about doing the same.
Neighboring Connecticut removed its last toll in 1989, but Gov. Dannel Malloy has suggested that tolling trucks might be worth considering as a revenue source for his 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan.
“We’re going to have to raise more money,” Malloy told Hearst Connecticut Media. “Gas taxes are going away. They’re going away because people are driving Teslas.”
Malloy, who has been trying to get a “lockbox” constitutional amendment through the Legislature and on the November ballot, also mentioned congestion pricing, fee increases and dedicating a higher percentage of sales taxes to transportation.
However, the truck-only tolling alarmed the trucking industry.
“Singling out the trucking industry, which many people call the backbone of the economy, would be pretty poor public policy,” said Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut. “[A recent study showed that] trucks paid 35% of all taxes owed by Connecticut motorists, even though trucks were only 4% of the vehicle miles traveled in the state.”
Connecticut-based motor carriers paid $5.8 million in truck registration fees while out-of-state trucking companies paid $19.5 million in registration fees to the state, Sculley added.
“Connecticut has been looking at tolls anyway, so I guess it would make sense that they would look at this as another potential option,” said Darrin Roth, vice president of highway policy for American Trucking Associations. “To avoid Connecticut is a longer way [through Massachusetts], and you’re paying tolls anyway. That domino hasn’t fallen yet, but that’s obviously the danger that Rhode Island sets a precedent, that other states look to this as a solution. At the moment, all we’ve had is a comment from the governor, and there’s no reason to think it will go any further than that.”
Roth vowed that ATA will fight any attempt to establish truck-only tolls as did Sculley, who said, “We’re going to fight to make sure it doesn’t happen. I think the political landscape is different in Connecticut than it is in Rhode Island.”
Rhode Island’s plan to collect truck-only tolls, which is being fought by ATA and the Rhode Island Trucking Association, still must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration.