SPECIAL REPORT: Maryland toll increases unfairly target truckers

| 1/6/2009

Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009 – If the Maryland Transportation Authority has its way, truckers will soon be paying up to 50-percent more to operate on state tollways.

Trucking industry officials including OOIDA say the increases would unfairly target truckers particularly when tolls for four-wheelers would remain unchanged.

On Monday, Jan. 5, the Maryland Transportation Authority proposed raising truck tolls by 30-50 percent as well as implementing a monthly $1.50 fee for E-ZPass accounts and raising other administrative fees for use of the authority’s seven tollways.

Officials cited the need for “cost recovery” in the face of a struggling economy, a decline in tollway traffic and increasing costs.

But it’s that same economy that has many truckers struggling to make ends meet and the same economy that has seen toll increases implemented or proposed in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine and other states.

“Truckers already pay significantly more in tolls and fuel taxes than other motorists in Maryland,” said Executive Vice President Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“It’s sadly ironic that the MTA cites the struggling economy as justification for raising tolls and fees on truckers.”

Spencer said small business truckers make up more than 80 percent of the trucking industry and are tasked with hauling the vast majority of the nation’s commerce.

“Truckers are hurting as much or more than everyone else right now,” he said. “This is absolutely the worst time for the MTA to impose unnecessary toll increases on truckers and jeopardize them as well as the businesses and consumers they service.”

OOIDA officials are urging truckers to get involved in the public process.

“Truckers should consider contacting lawmakers, attending public hearings and submitting comments on regulatory matters as essential to their livelihoods as preventive maintenance on their trucks,” Spencer said.

The Maryland Transportation Authority is accepting public comments on the proposal until Jan. 27 and a public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29.

Louis Campion, senior vice president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, said more than 88 percent of all manufactured goods in Maryland are moved by truck and that 92 percent of Maryland communities are exclusively dependent on trucks delivering their products.

“In this sort of struggling economic time, (for the MTA) to try to balance their own budget on the backs of the industry is really, I think, a mistake,” Campion told Land Line Now on XM Satellite Radio.

“Everyone has to pay for that infrastructure because everyone reaps the benefits of it. Unfortunately, this proposal really is an insult to the trucking industry because it does not really raise two-axle tolls. You only see toll increases on the backs of the trucking industry.”

Public comments are being accepted until Jan. 27 at the following address:

Attn: Mr. Ronald L. Freeland
Executive Secretary
Maryland Transportation Authority
2310 Broening Hwy., Suite 150
Baltimore, MD 21224
E-mail: mdtatollrates@mdta.state.md.us

The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Maryland Transportation Authority, 2310 Broening Hwy., Suite 160, Baltimore, MD 21224. Call 410-537-1005 or 410-355-7024 TTY at least 48 hours in advance if you require special accommodations to attend the hearing.

– By David Tanner, staff writer

Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report. He can be reached at reed_black@landlinemag.com