TRALA Opposing Steep Fees for Commercial Truck Parking in Washington, DC

TRALA is actively opposing efforts by the District of Columbia that would require some truck fleets to pay more than $24,000 per year for commercial zone parking permits. TRALA submitted formal comments, followed by vocal opposition at a hearing in the District, challenging the legality and practicality of a proposed rulemaking that was issued following passage of the District of Columbia Commercial Curbside Loading Zone Implementation Act of 2009.

The DC parking proposal would regulate the parking of commercial vehicles in loading zones and at metered curbside parking spaces in areas zoned as commercial or industrial, or at the usual delivery entrances of hotels, condominiums, or apartment buildings. The proposal would require payments of more than $24,000 per year for fleets with 75 or more trucks that want to purchase a commercial parking permit annual pass for their entire fleet. However, as TRALA notes in its comments filed jointly with several allied trade associations, the Act that was passed in 2009 does not require DDOT to impose fees for the use of loading zones by commercial vehicles.
The Act was meant to improve the efficiency of commercial loading/unloading operations in the District, resulting in less traffic and congestion. However, so far there has been no indication that DDOT would take any action to increase the number of commercial loading zones available for use, or to develop any rational rules for using existing or future loading zones, which would be sure to improve efficiency and ease traffic. In a joint comment letter submitted to DDOT by TRALA and its allies, it is noted that "Instead of seeking to discover what motor carriers actually need to perform their services in the District more effectively, DDOT has chosen to restrict access even to current zones, by the imposition of a tax on their use, and by the promulgation of regulations aimed at the collection of that tax rather than at the efficient use of the zones."
The comment letter states the associations' belief that the Commercial Curbside Loading Zone proposal violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because of the unapportioned flat fee schedule. The revised proposal from DDOT slightly backs off of the original proposed rulemaking which would have required the payment of fees based on a carrier's national fleet size, however, the unapportioned charges still discriminate against and burden interstate commerce.
Though carriers in theory have other "options" to comply with the parking tax scheme, the letter states that requiring carriers to display a decal to prove that tax has been paid is a violation of federal law.  As part of the federal highway reauthorization bill passed by Congress in 2005, 49 USC 14506 preempts state and local requirements for interstate motor carriers to display any form of identification in or on a commercial motor vehicle, save for a few exceptions. Several other "optional" tax and display requirements similar to this proposal have been ruled to be in violation of the federal preemption in 49 USC 14506, specifically in Oregon, New York City, New Jersey, and Cook County, Illinois.
If the proposed parking tax were to overcome the legal obstacles outlined in the comment letter, there are still several outstanding issues that would need to be addressed, including issues specific to renting and leasing. Those issues include whether there is an ability for both lessors and lessees to obtain permits; there needs to be assurances that decals for each instance could be obtained in a timely manner; the ability for parking violations to be cited to the responsible party (the vehicle operator) as opposed to the leasing company should be addressed; and how carriers that have purchased the maximum annual permit - and because of that use a company logo to show compliance with the law - can incorporate rental trucks which are not marked with their own logo into compliance with the loading zone regulation.
The comment letter was submitted jointly by TRALA, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA), Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA), and Virginia Trucking Association (VTA). Click here to see a copy of the comments. For questions, please contact TRALA's Joe Sculley at at (703) 299-9120.