New York Thruway officials rethink toll increase; could benefit big trucking

| Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A public outcry has caused New York Thruway officials to reassess a price hike that could have truckers paying a significant increase in tolls. Unfortunately, the new plan may end up benefiting the larger trucking companies more than owner-operators.

The New York State Thruway Authority met sharp criticism from truckers during a series of four formal public hearings to discuss the increase. Authority officials originally said there would be a 25 percent increase for passenger vehicles and an “average” increase of 35 percent for trucks. However, the proposal narrows the commercial vehicle classification system from 43 to nine categories, which, according to a toll calculator on the authority’s Web site, could mean an increase of 60 to 100 percent for many trucks.

Michael Fleischer, executive director of the authority, told Land Line the most common complaint during the public hearings was from members of the trucking community whose tolls would be well above the proposed increase.

“We’re looking at a number of ideas in terms of how to allow the classification process and the simplification to go forward, but still provide the lower rate,” Fleischer said. “They (truckers) recognize that the road needs work, they appreciate the service that’s provided on the thruway, but they expressed serious concerns about the impact of increases, particularly those above 35 percent.”

Fleischer said possible alternatives include rebates, a lower rate increase for trucks in the extremely high cost categories and a 5 percent discount for all drivers using the E-ZPass system. Fleischer said the authority is also considering a volume discount for commercial trucking companies whose fleets do a large amount of travel on the road.

Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President for OOIDA, said discounts for larger-volume trucking would only make the imbalance worse for independent drivers.

“Not only is the toll increase specifically discriminatory toward trucks compared to cars, it’s discriminatory within the trucking industry,” Spencer said. “It creates the greatest burden on small business truckers, which are most of the truckers that are going to be using those roads.”

Fleischer said the higher percentage for trucks – between 10 and 75 percent above cars – was appropriate, because trucks cause the greatest amounts of damage to the road itself.

“Our engineers have indicated that the level of wear-and-tear that a truck does compared to a passenger vehicle is well in excess of the ratios that we’re talking about – between 35/25 and what they’re currently paying today,” Fleischer said.

However, Spencer said the alleged road damage caused by trucks is a poor justification for the authority’s proposal.

“Trucks are already paying significantly more, even at the current rate,” Spencer said.

Drivers can calculate proposed toll costs for their own vehicle at http://www.thruway.state.ny.us/tolls2005/calc/index.html. Comments about the proposal can be directed to the New York Thruway Authority by phone at (518) 436-2983, by e-mail at PublicInfo@thruway.state.ny.us or by mail at: 200 Southern Boulevard, Albany, NY, 12209.

– By Aaron Ladage, Land Line staff
aaron_ladage@landlinemag.com

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