A pilot program allowing heavier trucks to run in Maine and Vermont was not renewed in a funding measure allowing DOT and other federal agencies to operate until after the November elections.

On Sept. 30, the last day of the federal fiscal year, legislation was passed funding the federal government at 2010 levels until December 3. Congress has recessed until after the mid-term elections and will reconvene Nov. 15 for a lame duck session that could run until well into December. In this session, Congress will wrap up all 12 federal agency funding bills, including the DOT, into one "omnibus" appropriations bill, reports the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

Although the Obama Administration had asked Congress to make the Vermont/Maine pilot permanent in the CR, it did not happen. The pilot would allow trucks operating on the Interstate Highway System in these states to exceed the current federal weight limit of 80,000 pounds. However, there is still a possibility that language making the pilots permanent may be included in the "omnibus" appropriations bill, CVSA reports.

CVSA had recommended to the Senate Appropriations Committee and Secretary of Transportation LaHood that if the pilot is extended, specific criteria for implementing the pilot should be developed that would enhance the pilot and allow for the collection of the safety and other pertinent data consistent with CVSA's current size and weight reauthorization policy. Since this enhancement language was not in the Senate Appropriations Committee as reported out of the Committee, it is unlikely that it will be added in the omnibus appropriations bill. However, CVSA's Size and Weight Committee has been engaged with FHWA and FMCSA on this issue and FHWA is working with enforcement officials in both Maine and Vermont on various aspects of the pilot. The enhancement of the pilot may well be accomplished administratively through the efforts of FHWA working with state officials and industry, according to CVSA.

Over and above the Maine/Vermont pilot, size and weight is sure to be an issue in the next reauthorization bill. This summer, Senate Bill 3705 was introduced by Senators Collins of Maine, Crapo of Idaho, and Kohl of Wisconsin. It is identical to HR 1799, introduced in the House last year by Rep. Michaud of Maine, allowing all states to authorize the operation of trucks up to 97,000 pounds on their Interstate highways.