Congress Considers Higher Truck Weights While Idaho, Ohio Mull Hikes
March 04, 2013
Recently introduced legislation in Congress seeks to hike the maximum truck weight on Interstate highways, while two states are considering higher weights on their own, but several groups are already opposing it.
H.R. 612, also known as The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013, calls for the same thing as bills in the previous two sessions of Congress: To move the federal weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds, if a tractor-trailer has a sixth axle. It would give individual states the final say-so if they wanted to go down this path.
The bill would also make permanent Maine’s 20-year pilot program allowing 100,000-pound trucks on its Interstate routes.
Introduced by House member Michael Michaud, D-Maine, the measure has 11 Republican and Democratic co-sponsors and has now been referred to committee.
So far the bill has drawn at least three negative letters. One is from the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. In correspondence to House members, President Jim Johnston, resident said, “While proponents talk about savings from heavier trucks, for the small business truckers that make up 90% of the trucking industry, heavier trucks only mean higher fuel, repair and equipment costs, including the likelihood of spending tens of thousands of dollars on new trailers designed to haul the heavier weight simply to remain competitive.”
Also condemning the legislation is a coalition of railroad interests. The Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the Railway Supply Institute, the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Transportation Communications International Union and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees point out that previous legislation has been rejected by Congress in a bipartisan vote. They also note the federal highway funding bill signed into law last year mandates the U.S. Transportation Department conduct a two-year study on the effects of increasing truck weights and sizes and says passing such legislation before would be “premature.”
The Teamsters Union in its letter to lawmakers said that back in the 1970s a state option that allowed trucks up to 80,000 pounds eventually paved the way for it to be the law of the land, and such an attempt this time around will only lead to the same thing.
In contrast, the American Trucking Associations has long been on record as supporting bigger and heavier trucks.
The legislation comes as a measure in Ohio has been passed by its House, allowing trucks up to 90,000 pounds on non-Interstate routes. It still needs approval by the Senate.
In Idaho, state lawmakers are considering allowing trucks far heavier. One measure calls for making permanent a hike in the overweight load limit with multiple trailers that require a permit, which is currently at 129,000 pounds along a limited number of routes. Another plan calls for increasing where such trucks can travel.