Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Feb. 20, 2023:
FMCSA extends regional emergency declaration
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration this week determined an emergency exists that warrants extension of a Regional Emergency Declaration in eight states.
As a result, truck drivers hauling gasoline, diesel and jet fuel into Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming in direct support of the emergency are exempt from Part 395.3 (maximum driving time) of the hours of service regulations through March 17 or until the end of the emergency, whichever is sooner.
The declaration was first issued Jan. 16 and was set to expire Feb. 15. The emergency declaration was issued “in response to the unanticipated shutdown of the Suncor refinery in Colorado, severe winter storms, and high demand resulting in difficulty in obtaining necessary fuel in the affected states, and the current and anticipated effects on people and property, including the immediate risk to public health, safety and welfare,” FMCSA said.
The extension was issued based on the continued response to the Suncor refinery shutdown, impacts of winter storms and high demand for the fuels.
[Related: Fuel haulers in eight states get hours of service relief]
Rhode Island appeals unconstitutional truck toll ruling
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. have filed a brief seeking an appeal to overturn a ruling that banned truck-only tolls in the state.
A federal court ruled in September that the state’s toll scheme aimed solely at tractor-trailers was unconstitutional and violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state economic interests in order to favor in-state interests and by designing the tolls in a way that "does not fairly approximate" in-state motorists' "use of the facilities under any relevant measurement."
The state filed a notice in October to signal its plan to appeal, and after an extension was granted in December, RITBA and Alviti filed a brief Feb. 10 arguing its case for an appeal. They argued in the brief that oral arguments should be heard because “the district court struck down a state statute on federal constitutional grounds,” adding that the case “presents important questions relating to federalism and the dormant Commerce Clause.”
RITBA and Alviti argued that using the Commerce Clause to determine the tolls were unconstitutional “transformed the dormant Commerce Clause into a mechanism for federal courts to displace the reasoned judgments of state legislatures seeking to solve complex infrastructure problems.”
Rhode Island argued that the RhodeWorks tolling program is not discriminatory, contrary to the district court’s ruling. “Discrimination, for dormant Commerce Clause purposes, requires similarly situated “out-of-state competitors” to be treated worse than their in-state competition,” the state said. “Under RhodeWorks, that never happens. An un-tolled Class 6 cement mixer does not compete with a tolled Class 8 tractor-trailer that hauls goods.”
Additionally, the state argued, the daily $20 cap for tolls along I-95 and $40 daily cap for all tolls in the state “are open to all tolled tractor-trailers, regardless of their state of registration.”
At the time the tolls were ruled unconstitutional and shut down, Rhode Island was collecting tolls at 12 locations across the state, with a 13th in development. RIDOT said on its website it had hoped to collect almost $45 million in tolls each year since taking effect in 2018.
[Related: Rhode Island truck-only tolls finally defeated in court]