California Legislature OKs resolution discouraging longer, heavier trucks

| 8/22/2008

The California Assembly and Senate have both signed off on an effort that urges the resistance of any attempts to allow longer, heavier trucks on roadways throughout the state. It now moves to Congress for their review.

The non-binding resolution – AJR52 – is intended to affirm opposition to the federal government for proposals to increase the size or weight of commercial vehicles. There is concern about the effect that increases would have on highways and bridges, Assemblywoman Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach, wrote in an analysis on the bill.

An analysis of the measure points out that existing federal and California law establishes length, width and weight limits for a variety of vehicles and vehicle combinations. Generally, the total length of a combination of vehicles is limited to 65 feet while vehicle width is limited to 102 inches. Typically, tractor-trailer weights may not exceed 80,000 pounds, while lower maximum weights are applied for smaller transport vehicles.

According to Karnette’s office, certain groups have indicated they will ask Congress to remove the “freeze” on longer combination vehicles as part of the reauthorization of the highway funding bill, which will be in the works during the next two years.

It also was pointed out that legislation now pending in Congress would raise the federal interstate weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds on federal highways, including interstates in California. The heavier limit would be restricted to tractor-trailers with six axles.

Opponents of longer, heavier trucks say the change would have a negative impact on California roads and bridges. They note that bridges in the state were built and designed where there were fewer and much lighter trucks traversing roads.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also have made their thoughts on the matter known. Senior member Bill Farrell, the owner of Bill Farrell LLC based in Missoula, MT, recently spoke to members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Farrell was quick to debunk arguments used by advocates to push for the longer and heavier trucks. He also highlighted the numerous problems that would arise if current limits were abandoned.

“Under the guise of enhanced productivity, some carriers and shippers incessantly push for ever-increasing size and weight limits while largely ignoring the dire safety implications,” he testified.

“OOIDA believes that the economic benefits enjoyed by a few would pale in comparison to the increased costs associated with loss of life and property; accelerated deterioration of equipment and the highway system; and developing, implementing and complying with the inevitable imposition of new rules and operational restrictions.”

Rather than make trucks longer and heavier, Farrell encouraged members of the House committee to address the real needs of the trucking industry and highway users.

“What the trucking industry and the nation needs is more available capacity on our highway networks, not less, that has the design capability to allow the free flow of cross-country commercial traffic to pick-up and delivery points,” he told committee members.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Senior Editor Jami Jones contributed to this story.