Pilot Program for Heavier Trucks Praised, Attacked

September 13, 2009

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A federal proposal to allow a pilot program testing heavier tractor-trailers drew both praise and fire Friday.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), included a provision in the FY 2010 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill that would enable Maine to conduct a one-year pilot program to test the impact of allowing 100,000-pound, six-axle single-trailer trucks to access Maine's interstate highway network.

The Coalition for Transportation Productivity, an advocacy group of more than 100 shippers and associations "dedicated to responsibly increasing federal weight limits on interstate highways," (including the American Trucking Associations), Friday sent a letter to Sen. Collins, praising her for the move.

"Sen. Collins recognizes the fact that allowing heavier, more efficient trucks on our nation's interstates will improve highway safety and reduce fuel use and emissions," said CTP Executive Director John Runyan. "This program will make roads safer by consolidating freight on fewer trucks and by taking heavy trucks off rural roads that often wind through towns, passing schools and driveways, and putting them on better-engineered, divided, multi-lane interstate highways."

"At a point when many producers are facing tough economic times, the provision enables them to reduce the number of weekly shipments - cutting costs, spurring investment and protecting valuable jobs," continued Runyan. "U.S. manufacturers are also forced rely on expensive freight consolidation because our major trading partners have higher truck weight limits, but Sen. Collins' provision would help Northeastern producers compete for market share and efficiently export goods to Canada."

Also on Friday, a coalition of anti-truck groups and safety advocates sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate saying the exemption "is only a pretext for permanently raising the weight limit to 100,000 pounds on Maine's I-95 interstate and in other states, making that highway even more treacherous."

Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, or CRASH, a group that says it wants to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by truck-related crashes, was joined by Parents Against Tire Truckers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and other groups. In their letter, they said that:

* Bigger trucks lead to more deaths, injuries, and road and bridge damage,
* Maine has serious road and bridge safety issues, and that overweight trucks could result in a catastrophic bridge collapse similar to the I-35 bridge tragedy in Minnesota, and
* The motoring public is unfairly subsidizing heavy trucking as the expense of a balanced and safe transportation system.

Joan Claybrook, chair of CRASH, said in a news release, "This special interest provision was quietly inserted into this federal legislation without any public input and without any public hearings."

Read more about this issue in "Trailer Report: Heavier-Rig Idea Advances" from the June 2009 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.

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