Tolls are a heavy burden for truckers. In addition to paying more than everyone else at the booth, truck drivers have to waste precious time sitting in line or finding a way around the tolled area.
The lost time is often the biggest issue. Excessive tolling can prevent a haul from being delivered on time.
Areport by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) specifically cited Pennsylvania turnpike polling as “unfair to trucking.”
Yet despite these profit-draining setbacks, the United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a case about excessive tolling in Pennsylvania.
This non-ruling means that the status quo in Pennsylvania turnpike tolling will continue.
The Court Case
The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) filed a lawsuit citing the heavy tolls on Pennsylvania Turnpike. According to the OOIDA, the excessive fees generated were somewhere in the billions, and truckers deserved to be reimbursed for it.
While raising this much money is not illegal, OOIDA claimed Pennsylvania was using the money on non-turnpike-related items, such as the state’s annual $450 million payment to the Department of Transportation.
If this allegation was true, it would mean Pennsylvania was using the toll fees to pay off its debts rather than cover maintenance for the turnpike.
Why Pennsylvania Won
Before going to the United States Supreme Court, the case went before the 3rd Circuit and District Court. Here, truckers claimed the tolls fell under the Federal Dormant Commerce Clause. This law states it is illegal to discriminate against interstate and international commerce.
The argument is that truck drivers are restricted while travelling due to excessive tolls, but the court ruled that truck drivers could take alternate routes.
The verdict stated that Congress never made a ruling as to how the tolls were to be used.
The OOIDA appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but the higher court declined to hear the case. The existing verdict will stand.
What This Means For Truckers
This non-decision by the Supreme Court may hurt commerce if the tolls get excessively punitive for truck drivers. If owner-operators, specifically, decline runs in Pennsylvania, it’s possible that northern states, such as New York and Maine, may side with truckers and pressure Pennsylvania into at least lowering the excessive tolls.
Arguably the easiest option is to bypass the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There are plenty of ways to go about planning your route around tolls. Fortunately, travelers tend to share how they managed to avoid tolls and save time too. Unfortunately, not all alternate routes are fit for an 80,000 pound rig.