OOIDA pushes back against longer, heavier trucks in highway bill

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/1/2012

OOIDA is pushing back against a provision in a U.S. House transportation bill that would increase the size and weight of commercial vehicles on federal highways.

Those increases, included in bill language released Tuesday, Jan. 31, by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, would not only compromise highway safety and infrastructure, but also lead to significant new cost increases for 90 percent of the trucking industry, which is made up of small-business truckers.

OOIDA is reaching out to lawmakers asking them to be wary of the big business interests behind the proposed increase in truck weight limits from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 and even 126,000 pounds on certain roadways. Those interests – which include coalitions of large shippers, receivers, the ATA and its large member carriers along with certain manufacturing and food industry groups – are also pushing for states to allow longer-combination vehicles, including double and triple trailers.

“Truck drivers know firsthand that heavier and longer trucks are much harder to maneuver and put additional stress on our already deteriorating highways and bridges,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

OOIDA contends that in many situations the proposed change in law – which is designed solely to profit big business at the expense of highway safety and small businesses – will require a small-business trucker to spend up to $100,000 on new equipment.

“When choosing between a trucker bringing home $40,000 a year on average and a bailout for multibillion-dollar corporations, I hope Congress will make the right decision and side with small-business truckers,” Spencer added.

OOIDA issued a national Call to Action, urging members to reach out to lawmakers to counter a blitz by the ATA and the LCV proponents on Capitol Hill this week. The Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

Following are some of the points truck drivers are making known to their representatives about the potential impact of longer and heavier trucks:

  • Congestion will get worse, not better. Historically, no decrease in truck traffic has ever occurred as a result of increased weight/size limits. Also, heavier trucks will require greater amounts of length and time to merge on to highways than current infrastructure designs provide. Traffic flow will be interrupted as passenger vehicle motorists compete to get around heavier, rolling “roadblocks,” and resulting speed differentials can increase the chances for collisions.  
  • Higher taxes and tolls for all motorists. This includes an increase in truck weights that will lead to tax increases for all motorists as the amount of road and bridge damage from heavier trucks will far outstrip any “user fee” paid by the companies benefiting from the weight increase. Governments will need to increase fuel taxes and add new tolls just to keep pace with the damage.
  • Increased burdens for state and local governments. Many local roads and neighborhood streets are not built to withstand the damage from trucks heavier than today’s 80,000-pound standard, yet these streets will be used by heavier trucks as they travel to factories and pull off interstates to refuel, eat or rest. Local intersections will need to be reconstructed to handle the increased turning radius from LCVs. 
  • New costs for small businesses. Passing an increase would add significant new costs to small-business truckers as they would be forced to retrofit or purchase new heavier trailers (costing some small carriers around $100,000). Also, small-business truckers will spend more on fuel, insurance and repair bills – all out of their pockets.
  • Focus taken away from new jobs, better highways and more American energy. This includes a controversial increase that will take the focus away from the House highway bill’s priorities – creating jobs, improving our roads and bridges, and increasing access to American energy.

Other groups and lawmakers are pushing back against the longer-heavier initiative as well.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, and U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-MA, continue to be staunch opponents of longer and heavier trucks.

“This measure would put drivers at greater risk and allow bigger trucks to damage our infrastructure,” Lautenberg said in a statement.

The Teamsters and safety groups were planning a press conference Wednesday to speak out against the longer-heavier provision.

“Heavier and longer trucks mean greater stopping distances and shorter reaction times,” Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said in a statement. “This legislation is treacherous to the driving public.”

Law enforcement organizations are also rallying against the longer-heavier provision.

So are the railroads. The Association of American Railroads issued a statement, pointing to studies showing that an increase in truck weights to 97,000 pounds would not result in fewer trucks on the roadways but would actually increase the number of truckloads by 8 million.

“It’s not too hard to imagine what would happen to our roads if that is allowed to happen,” AAR president Ed Hamberger stated.

Copyright © OOIDA