News roundup, Jan. 28: Supreme Court won’t hear OOIDA’s challenge to increasing PA Turnpike tolls; little reader support for ABC tests; longtime Talladega trucker passes away

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020:

Supreme Court won’t hear OOIDA’s case against Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s challenge of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s toll increases was effectively ended Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to not hear the group’s lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission over increasing tolls.

OOIDA has called PTC’s toll increases “excessive,” adding that the toll hikes “place an undue burden on interstate commerce while improperly diverting toll revenue to other projects unrelated to the turnpike.” Last April, a Pennsylvania judge dismissed the lawsuit. OOIDA appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the request was denied.

“By not hearing the case, the Court has essentially ensured that all highway users will be ATMs to fund everything under the sun, and from here on out, that is exactly what will happen in other states,” said Lewie Pugh, vice president of OOIDA. “We are dumbfounded that the highest court in the country thinks it’s okay for states to place the burden of solving their own bad decisions upon motorists and truckers by way of excessive tolls. It’s literally highway robbery.”

PTC said it’s pleased with the decision, but added that the lawsuit helped bring the turnpike’s funding issues to the attention of state leaders.

“We are pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision,” said PTC CEO Mark Compton. “However, the truckers’ lawsuit did propel the burdensome funding obligation the PA Turnpike is currently under, as well as its impact on our customers, into the limelight. It is of paramount importance to keep leaders focused on the future funding of all transportation needs in the commonwealth.”

Readers’ views of ABC test for the independent contractor classification in latest poll results

A majority of readers see the ABC test for the independent contractor classification as too simplistic//broad to apply to trucking when it comes to the traditional contractual relationships between owner-operators who lease their businesses and equipment to motor carriers. Find in-depth reporting on where things stand with California’s Assembly Bill 5 and its the court-ordered delay in application of an ABC test in trucking there via this link to James Jaillet’s report from last week. Comments ranged from opinions that suggested the test was more government overreach to acknowledgements of issues when prospective truck owners enter lease-purchase arrangements for fleet-owned trucks. With little operational freedom in such an arrangement, it’s hard to justify an independent contractor status at face value, noted one reader, commenting under this poll. “If you cannot take your ‘leased from the carrier’ truck anywhere else, you are a company driver, you just don’t want to admit it.”A majority of readers see the ABC test for the independent contractor classification as too simplistic//broad to apply to trucking when it comes to the traditional contractual relationships between owner-operators who lease their businesses and equipment to motor carriers. Find in-depth reporting on where things stand with California’s Assembly Bill 5 and its the court-ordered delay in application of an ABC test in trucking there via this link to James Jaillet’s report from last week. Comments ranged from opinions that suggested the test was more government overreach to acknowledgements of issues when prospective truck owners enter lease-purchase arrangements for fleet-owned trucks. With little operational freedom in such an arrangement, it’s hard to justify an independent contractor status at face value, noted one reader, commenting under this poll. “If you cannot take your ‘leased from the carrier’ truck anywhere else, you are a company driver, you just don’t want to admit it.” John Ray, a former trucker and NASCAR driver, passed away recently at 82. Ray was well-known in the racing community for driving his Peterbilt around Talladega Superspeedway with the American flag flying behind the rig during the National Anthem. (Talladega Superspeedway photo)John Ray, a former trucker and NASCAR driver, passed away recently at 82. Ray was well-known in the racing community for driving his Peterbilt around Talladega Superspeedway with the American flag flying behind the rig during the National Anthem. (Talladega Superspeedway photo)

Longtime Talladega Superspeedway trucker passes away
Talladega Superspeedway staff announced this week the passing of John Ray, the longtime driver of the truck that carried the American flag during National Anthem performances at the track. Ray, a former trucking company owner and NASCAR driver, was 82 years old.

Since 2001, Ray, of Eastaboga, Alabama, has driven his Peterbilt around the track with the American flag flying behind it – a tradition that started in the race following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“National Anthems at Talladega Superspeedway are the most iconic, and it’s because of our great friend John Ray,” said Speedway President Brian Crichton. “What he brought to our fans can’t be duplicated. He was an incredible, passionate man who supported the track and all of motorsports with everything he had. His spirit will live here forever. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ray family.”

Ray, who owned John Ray Trucking Company since the 1970s, volunteered to help at the track for more than 40 years. He was also a NASCAR driver from 1974-1976, competing in eight races until an accident at Daytona in 1976 ended his racing career.

Overnight restrictions set for I-17 in Phoenix this week
Arizona Department of Transportation crews will restrict certain lanes of I-17 in Phoenix this week for pavement repairs and other maintenance work. ADOT warns drivers to allow extra time when going through the area this week. Planned restrictions include:

  • The two left lanes of I-17 South near the I-10 “Stack” interchange will be closed from 11 p.m. Tuesday through 5 a.m. Wednesday.
  • The three left lanes of I-17 South between Northern Avenue and Bethany Home Road will be closed from 9 p.m. Wednesday through 5 a.m. Thursday.
  • The right lane of I-17 South will be closed between Buckeye Road and 7th Avenue from 9 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. Friday. The I-17 off-ramp at Durango Street will also be closed during this time.
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