Supreme Court won’t hear New Jersey’s appeal on truck rules

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Large trucks will continue to use local New Jersey roads after the U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped a state bid to keep large trucks on its major highways. Without giving a reason, the court on Monday, Oct. 2, decided not to hear the case, giving a victory to the American Trucking Associations and U.S. Xpress.

The two had argued the ban on trucks heading through the state on local roads was unconstitutional. “So as far as we’re concerned, the case is over,” said Charles A. Rothfeld, who represented ATA and U.S. Xpress. Rothfeld praised the high court’s decision. “We think they’re right,” he said. “There wasn’t anything in the case that the Supreme Court would be interested in.”

Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s administration was dismayed. “The governor and I are greatly disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling, but we’ve been prepared for this eventuality,” Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri said. Kolluri said the administration hopes to within 45 days unveil a new truck rule that will pass court muster, but he wouldn’t detail what the rule might dictate. “It’s going to balance commerce, safety and law enforcement,” Kolluri said.

The ban was implemented in 1999 and ended last year after a federal appeals court found it discriminated against interstate commerce. A federal judge in Newark had come to the same conclusion in 2004, but lifting the ban was delayed while the state appealed. Following the court ruling, the state implemented emergency rules designed to keep trucks on state and national highways and county roads that have lanes at least 11 feet wide, but it fought to reinstate the tighter restrictions. Kolluri said those emergency rules remain in effect.

The ban had prohibited double trailers and 102-inch-wide trucks from secondary and rural roads. Large trucks were restricted to major highways – the interstates, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Atlantic City Expressway – unless they had either an origin or a destination in New Jersey. Trucking companies said the ban cost them millions in extra tolls and fuel.