Looming large
OOIDA and lawmakers urge rejection of truck weight bill

By David Tanner, associate editor

America’s small-business trucking professionals do not want longer and heavier trucks on America’s highways, contrary to what the proponents of a bill in the U.S. House say.

OOIDA wrote to members of Congress in February, urging them not to co-sponsor HR612, introduced by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud, D-ME, and Reed Ribble, R-WI. The bill would give states the authority to increase truck weights from the current 80,000 on five axles to 97,000 pounds on six axles on the National Highway System.

OOIDA supports the current freeze that has existed since 1982.

Proponents of longer and heavier trucks, including the American Trucking Associations and large shippers and receivers, pushed for their cause during deliberations for MAP-21, the two-year highway bill signed into law in July 2012.

Pushback from OOIDA got the truck size provision stricken from the final version of the bill. Congress opted for a U.S. DOT study of the effects of longer and heavier trucks on the nation’s infrastructure, highway safety, efficiency and the economy. That study will take some time.

“While some within the trucking industry argue that the entire industry is supportive of a weight increase, the overwhelming majority of trucking, from independent owner-operators up to most fleets, does not see a benefit from increasing truck size and weights,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston wrote in his letter to members of Congress dated Feb. 26.

“At the very least, Congress needs a complete understanding of the issues surrounding size and weight before considering any potential change to current policies,” Johnston continued. “As such, OOIDA respectfully requests that you refrain from co-sponsoring HR612 and allow DOT to complete the comprehensive study required by Congress under MAP-21.”

ATA and large shippers were at it again in February, prompting responses from lawmakers and highway users.

“As you are likely aware, truck size and weight was a contentious issue during the last Congress and during the transportation authorization bill mark-up,” Rep. Lou Barletta, R-PA, stated in a “dear colleague” letter to fellow members of Congress.

“Increasing the weight limit for trucks presents serious questions about highway safety, road and bridge damage, and whether Congress wants to pick winners and losers among the competing freight transportation modes,” Barletta said. “Further, there is significant disagreement within the trucking industry itself over this proposal.”

AAA issued a statement against longer and heavier trucks as well. 

“On behalf of AAA and our more than 47 million members in the United States, we urge you to oppose any efforts to increase the federal truck size and weight limit until the federal truck size and weight study is concluded,” AAA Managing Director of Government Relations Jill Ingrassia said.

“AAA members place a high priority on highway safety and on the quality of our infrastructure and consistently ranked driving alongside large trucks as one of their top traffic concerns over the years.”

Truckers point out the flaws in the proponents’ argument that larger trucks will lead to fewer trucks on the roadways.

In his letter, Johnston urged Congress to tackle detention time and other issues affecting efficiency.

“These delays lead to trucks sitting for hours waiting to load and unload, costing the economy billions each year according to the GAO (Government Accountability Office). Driver delay negatively impacts the ability of drivers to comply with HOS regulations and leads to increased idling and congestion on freight corridors.”

OOIDA members average 20 years and 2 million safe miles behind the wheel.

“Their collective experience shows that heavier trucks suffer from reduced stability on the road and accelerate the damage of roads and bridges,” Johnston said.

“It also must be recognized that higher limits permitted by past weight increases have quickly become the new standard across the entire industry, not simply an option used by a select group of shippers, spreading negative impacts across all highways.” LL