Transportation interests from all points of the compass staked their positions on truck sizes and weights at a July 9 hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It was the first public encounter over this complex and difficult issue
as Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal highway program, which is due to expire next year.

The American Trucking Associations wants the current 80,000-pound limit to be raised to 97,000 pounds, provided the trailer has a tridem rear axle, among other changes. In the same camp is a coalition of carriers and shippers called Americans for Safe and Efficient Transportation.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Teamsters union do not want any increases.

The safety enforcement community, represented by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, is not opposed to increasing restrictions - provided that safety is not impaired.

Most state highway and transportation officials are open to the idea of easing restrictions on a regional basis, particularly in corridors where the economic benefits are clear. On the other hand, Hennepin County, Minn., site of the fatal I-35W bridge collapse last August, does not want trucks to be any heavier.

The professional safety advocacy community, represented at the hearing by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, is adamantly opposed to increases.

Individual states are pursuing their own special interests. Maine, for example, wants Congress to exempt all of the state's Interstate roads from the federal weight limit. Maine allows up to 100,000 pounds on all roads but portions of the Interstates are restricted to the 80,000-pound limit. This forces trucks off the Interstates onto local roads, creating safety hazards and inefficiencies.

Railroads are opposed to higher size and weight limits, saying in a statement that "trucks weighing over 80,000 pounds pay only about half of their highway cost responsibility."

Watch for more details in the August issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.