ATA retreats from pushing longer, heavier trucks

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/10/2012

The American Trucking Associations has officially backed off its push to increase truck sizes and weights on interstate highways.

ATA President Bill Graves and Association of American Railroads President Ed Hamberger signed a joint letter urging representatives in the U.S. House to oppose longer and heavier trucks during debates scheduled on the chamber floor next week.

During a recent hearing on the House’s five year, $260 billion surface transportation authorization bill known as HR7, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved an amendment to kill off a provision that would have increased truck weights to 97,000 pounds and allowed states to make decisions regarding longer combination vehicles including double and triple trailers.

The likelihood that an amendment will resurface on the House floor to restore the measure in HR7 appears slim to none thanks to what has been referred to as a “truce” between the ATA and the railroad association.

“… the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) join together to urge Members to oppose any floor amendments that would modify any of the truck size and weight provisions in the bill that was reported out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 3rd,” Graves and Hamberger wrote in the letter dated Feb. 9.

Bloomberg reported that the two associations had called a “truce” on the issue.

OOIDA, which launched its own campaign in opposition to longer and heavier trucks leading up to the committee hearing, credits its members for getting the provision struck from the bill language.

“While ATA may claim the industry wants bigger/heavier, that just isn’t so,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

“Real truckers called their lawmakers to voice their opposition and – this time – the big special interests didn’t get their way

This was not the first time the ATA backed down from a push to increase truck size and weight.

In a letter dated June 25, 2003, Graves and Hamberger again teamed up to declare that their common goals outweighed the competition on that issue.

“In order to better focus efforts on common legislative and policy positions, ATA and AAR have agreed that their two organizations will support continuation of the existing federal statutory provisions concerning truck sizes and weights that were initially passed by Congress in the 1991 ISTEA legislation,” they wrote at the time.

Although the 97,000-pound issue and longer combination vehicles are gone, language remains in HR7 that would allow three states to enter a pilot program to test 126,000-pound trucks on 25-mile stretches of interstate highways. That remaining language is watered down from the initial proposal that would have allowed any state to implement longer and heavier trucks.

House lawmakers are set to begin debating HR7 and proposing floor amendments during the week of Feb. 13.

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