Truckers’ lawsuit against NY’s use of toll money clears hurdle

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thruwayA lawsuit by trucking interests claiming the New York State Thruway Authority charges excessive tolls has new life after a federal appeals court reinstated their claims Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the suit brought by three trucking companies, the American Trucking Associations and numerous individual truckers can proceed. They claim the Thruway Authority violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by charging excessive tolls, which reduce truck driver income and cause higher consumer prices.

Companies that were part of the suit included:

  • Wadhams Enterprises of Phelps, NY
  • Lightning Express Delivery Service of Modena, NY
  • Ward Transport & Logistics Corp., which has operations in Newburgh and Tonawanda, NY.

Their suit had been thrown out earlier by a Manhattan federal court judge because the state wasn’t named as a party.

The litigants said that up to $100 million a year — about 12 percent of tolls — is spent on the New York State Canal System. The 2nd Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs said the canals have “faded into obsolescence” and are used primarily for recreation.

The New York State Constitution obligates the state to support the canals. In 1992 the state legislature shifted responsibility for the canal system’s operation from the New York Department of Transportation to the Thruway Authority. The Thruway Authority is a self-funded public entity that is not technically under state control, the three-judge decision said.

The appeals court said the Thruway Authority is not an arm of the state and not entitled to the state’s sovereign immunity.

Read the entire decision.

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