Law & Litigation

ATA’s Challenge to Rhode Island’s Discriminatory Truck-Only Highway Tolls

ATA is currently involved in complex, high-stakes litigation against the state of Rhode Island, challenging its discriminatory toll scheme that subjects tractor-trailers—but no other vehicles—to highway tolls. Public policy litigation like this is extraordinarily costly, and we need your help to continue pressing the case to a successful conclusion.


This litigation is of paramount importance not just to the motor carriers who use Rhode Island’s highways, but to the entire trucking industry, as well as anyone who relies on trucks to move their freight. We all know that tolling is the wrong way to fund our nation’s highway infrastructure needs—and truck-only tolling is simply unacceptable. If Rhode Island gets away with it, and with Congress currently unwilling to fix the loopholes that Rhode Island is exploiting, we can be sure that other states will go down the same path. Immediately at issue in this litigation is the tens of millions of dollars that Rhode Island is taking from the pockets of motor carriers each year. But more broadly at stake is ensuring that states cannot unaccountably use the interstate trucking industry as a piggy bank to avoid tough revenue and spending decisions.

Especially in these difficult economic times, we do not ask lightly for your financial support. But the trucking industry needs to show that we are united and will not submit to this kind of extortion without a fight. Please consider a contribution to help us continue aggressively pursuing this matter. Any contribution you make will be money well spent in the defense of the industry, and will amount to a small fraction of what you stand to lose if truck-only tolling takes root. Together, let’s send a clear signal that states need to look elsewhere for sustainable ways to meet their highway funding needs.

ATA and the ATA Litigation Center engage in litigation to advance and protect the interests of the motor carrier industry in federal and state courts around the nation, as a direct party, an intervenor, and as an amicus curiae.

ATA monitors and educates its members about legal developments in courts and legislatures that will affect the motor carrier industry.

The ATA Litigation Center was incorporated in Virginia in May 1985. As originally conceived, the Center was designed to pool individual carrier resources so as to allow the industry to pursue costly litigation whose financial burden would be too great for an individual trucking company to bear. Its corporate mission was identified as the promotion and defense of motor carriers’ common interests through advocacy, legal counseling, training, and information. The Center’s activities are overseen by a 33-person Board of Directors and its day-to-day operations managed by an in-house professional staff. The Center represents ATA or individual members in cases that have broad public policy implications for the trucking industry. The Center selects the cases in which it will participate based on objective selection criteria, including: chance of success; precedential value; benefit to the industry; and cost.

The Center serves as its clients, ATA, ATA members, and affiliated entities such as the state trucking associations. Over the last quarter century, the Center has represented trucking in virtually all types and levels of court (including nearly 20 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court) and backed members as an amicus in scores of cases that have industry-wide importance.

Carrier Broker Agreements

With approval from the Department of Justice, ATA provides model agreements for motor carrier and broker contractual relationships. The model contracts were developed in consultation with ATA member motor carriers, many of which operate separate brokerage businesses, and reflect comments made by the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) on behalf of its members. The model agreements (short form and long form) are intended to assist motor carriers and brokers in reaching a common understanding of their legal rights and obligations and to cover basic contractual terms, such as the legal status of the parties; freight documentation; insurance coverage; and cargo liability.

Carrier Shipper Agreements

American Trucking Associations and the National Industrial Transportation League have created the Model Truckload Motor Carrier/Shipper Agreement for use by motor carriers and shippers in structuring their contractual relationships. This model agreement is designed to promote uniformity in contract provisions in order to increase efficiency in negotiations and provide a balanced agreement for shippers and carriers.

Tort Reform

The ATA Insurance Task Force (ITF) assists motor carriers in finding affordable insurance and chose tort reform as a means of attacking the underlying cause of high insurance rates: outrageous and unfair verdicts caused by a deeply flawed judicial system.

The ITF focuses its efforts on those reforms most important to the trucking industry (e.g., elimination of joint and several liability, caps on punitive damages, the recognition of collateral sources, the admissibility of non-use of seat belts) and works closely with state trucking associations to ensure that trucking industry interests are included in state tort reform efforts.