A trucking industry interest group is suing the state of Indiana for more than $1 billion. The plaintiff, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC), has accused the state’s Department of Revenue of illegally collecting fees from trucking companies since 2008.
The November 17 class action lawsuit was filed in Marion County, Indiana Superior Court. Two prominent Indiana Republicans are at the epicenter of the case. On the defendant side is Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Department of Revenue commissioner, Adam Krupp and the rest of Holcomb’s administration.
Representing the plaintiff is the famous Terre Haute Republican lawyer, Jim Bopp, of Citizens United fame. Citizens United was a 2010 Supreme Court decision that overturned restrictions on political campaign contributions made by corporations, nonprofits, and labor unions.
Lead plaintiff and President of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition, is the controversial James Lamb, a well-known figure in the trucking industry. In 2016, the Federal Trade Com-mission (FTC) sued Lamb for his alleged deceptive business practices. The suit accused Lamb of misleading small trucking businesses by impersonating government transportation agency officials and convincing them to pay $19 million to him, his companies, and an associate. Lamb refuted the claims, saying the government agency falsely characterized him with exaggerated claims. He argues that there were disclaimers on his companies’ marketing materials clearly stating the third party status of his companies.
Lamb is an outspoken advocate for the gun rights of truckers and is the creator of the Facebook group, “Trucker Lives Matter.” He is the author of “Mike’s Law,” a proposed federal legislation that would permit commercial truckers to carry firearms across state lines. The law is named after Michael Boeglin, an unarmed trucker who was fatally shot inside his truck in Detroit.
The trucking fees class action lawsuit accuses the Indiana Department of Revenue (INDOR) of allegedly unlawfully collecting United Carrier Plan (UCR) fees for more than a decade. The SBTC, a 501(c)(6) non-profit trade organization, has brought the suit on behalf of its 8,000 members to represent, promote, and protect the interests of small businesses in the trucking industry.
INDOR is a state government body tasked with managing UCR registration and fees on behalf of 41 states. The multi-state agreement allows truckers from the 41 states to register and pay fees only once a year rather than individually for each state. The agreement was authorized by Congress in 2005, allowing states to voluntarily participate in compacts to facilitate a stream-lined process for registration and fee collection of interstate motor carriers through an online system.
Fees collected for UCR purposes, which begin at $76, vary depending on the size of the truck fleet, the payment method, and the the truck company’s location. According to the lawsuit, the state collects UCR fees from 400,000 truckers, totaling $100 million annually.
According to Bopp, the citizens of Indiana never granted their state government the power to collect such fees. “I’m a conservative,” Bopp states, “who does not want to see government overreaching, taxing people and collecting money unless the people authorize it through the leg-islature. What’s important to me is that the government stays within its bounds.”
“Without such authority under Indiana law,” Bopp argues, “INDOR’s nationwide collection of the UCR-related fees is unlawful and every trucker since 2008 is entitled to a refund of these ille-gally collected fees.”