The Obama administration included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution that formally asks Congress make permanent two pilot programs that give heavier, six-axle trucks full access to interstate highways in Maine and Vermont. The Maine/Vermont provision allows 108,000- to 120,000-pound six-axle trucks to operate on interstate roads and bridges in Vermont and 100,000-pound six-axle trucks on all Maine Interstate highways in a pilot program.
In a letter to Capitol Hill, the AAR said that permanently giving the OK for trucks weighing 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine and Vermont's interstate highways could provide impetus to trucking interests in the Northeast and along the East Coast to lift the federal truck weight ban elsewhere.
"Not only do extremely heavy trucks today exact a serious wear and tear toll on America's already overextended highways, but much of the costs to repair roads and bridges damaged by heavy-load trucks is paid by taxpayers and not the trucking companies responsible for the damage," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger.
"The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that trucks weighing 80,000 to 100,000 pounds pay just half of the cost of the damage they do to the nation's highways," Hamberger said. "This huge heavy truck underpayment means that the remainder of these costs is paid for by the general public."
Hamberger also said that in addition to the serious infrastructure damage and truck underpayment concerns, 100,000 pound trucks will siphon a significant percentage of freight traffic from the country's railroads. "This will rob the railroad industry of revenue needed for reinvestment and add congestion to the nation's highways."
In its message to Congress, the Obama administration credited the pilot programs, set to expire in December,- with having improved safety and productivity on Maine and Vermont highways: "Continuing the program will improve safety on local roads and increase efficiency of commercial trucking in the region," the administration said in its request.