The House on Tuesday defeated an amendment to a $325 billion highway funding bill that would have let states decide whether they want to allow heavier trucks on their roads.
The amendment, from Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), David Rouzer (R-N.C.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), would allow states to decide whether they want to increase a current limit of 80,000 pounds for cargo trucks to 91,000 pounds.
Proponents wanted to attach it to the highway bill in an attempt to end a bitter fight over truck weights that has raged for years in Washington. The proposal was rejected 187-236 in a House floor vote.
WASHINGTON – A congressional proposal that would see much heavier trucks on the nation’s highways will cost taxpayers billions of dollars in damaged roads and bridges while further straining already depleted federal coffers, one of the nation’s top transportation representatives said Wednesday.
The proposal, offered as an amendment to a bill that funds the nation’s highways, would increase the current weight limit for a tractor-trailer from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds – adding the equivalent of two large SUVs to every truck.
Many trucking companies, business trade groups, highway safety organizations, citizens’ groups, as well as the Truckload Carriers Association, oppose the measure.
“The added truck weight will further destroy precious national infrastructure and cost taxpayers dearly,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “Allowing trucks to be 14 percent heavier would be a fundamental change to national policy. Lawmakers should strike this amendment before sending a final highway bill to the White House for the President’s signature.”
A June 2015 study from the U.S. Department of Transportation found that the added stress of bigger trucks would require engineering and repair work – or even a complete replacement – of nearly 5,000 bridges. The DOT analyzed only 20 percent of the nation’s bridges for its report, so the true cost of allowing larger trucks would be in the billions of dollars.
In addition to damaging infrastructure, bigger trucks with bigger loads will increase fuel consumption by millions of gallons a year, generate increased greenhouse gas emissions and divert more freight to the country’s already gridlocked highways.
The issue underscores important differences between freight trains and trucks. Not only are railroads four-times more fuel efficient than trucks and more environmentally friendly, but, freight rail and its vast coast-to-coast network is funded by private funds. Taxpayers must foot the bill to maintain and upgrade highways and highway bridges.
“At a time when federal spending on infrastructure is essential, this proposal would create a massive additional cost borne by the U.S. taxpayer, a cost that is entirely avoidable,” Hamberger said.
An Alexandria, Va.-based rail industry group known as GoRail said Monday that heavier trucks would be bad for the nation’s roads and environment – in addition to affecting train companies’ bottom lines.
The SMART Transportation Division’s legislative officers attended a public-input meeting held by the U.S. Department of Transportation May 29 to study truck size and weight limits.
Written testimony from the legislative office included the complete survey results from a poll conducted by the SMART TD in Indiana and Missouri regarding truck size and weight limits.
A portion of that survey was published in the May 2013 SMART TD News.
In written testimony submitted to the DOT, Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch stated: “By very large margins, these surveys show that the public at large opposes any increase in truck size and weight.
“Our labor union opposes increasing the size and weight of trucks as well because doing so will divert traffic from privately owned and maintained railroads to our already overburdened publicly built and maintained highways.
“Bigger trucks will increase highway congestion and further damage our inadequate infrastructure, and will put railroads at a further competitive disadvantage than they already are.
“Transporting freight by rail is more fuel efficient, saves our nation’s highways and produces far less pollutants than does transporting freight by trucks.
“Public policy decisions should encourage more freight to be moved by rail, not less.”
To view the SMART TD’s complete polling results from the Indiana and Missouri surveys, click here.
WASHINGTON – UTU members can make a difference in Congress, and your emails and phone calls — as requested by the UTU International — helped derail an attempt by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) to permit longer and heavier killer trucks on more of the nation’s highways.
The enabling provision – to permit extended use of triple trailers and trucks weighing almost 100,000 pounds — was pulled from a proposed highway funding bill by committee members following significant public opposition made known to members of Congress.
Instead, the committee voted to delay consideration of the provision for three years so as to properly study the impact of longer and heavier trucks, which includes the shifting of freight from rails to the highway.
The Association of American Railroads, citing a study out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, estimated that extending, nationwide, current limited use of longer and heavier trucks would reduce rail traffic by 19 percent and put almost eight million more trucks on the road.
“Before we put the public safety at risk, we should do the study and make an informed decision,” said Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.).
The Senate previously voted for a study on the issue.