The once-dead issue of asking the feds to increase truck size and weights is heating up in a full-blown battle on Capitol Hill with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association battling the propaganda being pushed by a group of coalitions.
“The fight is here again,” said Rod Nofziger, OOIDA’s Director of Government Affairs. “OOIDA is in a good position, but we can’t take it for granted. It’s not going to be easy because these folks have deep pockets.”
Coalitions such as Americans for Safe and Efficient Transportation, Coalition for Transportation Productivity and AgTec are knocking on doors all over Congress trying to sway lawmakers into believing that 97,000-pound, six-axle trucks are the answer to a myriad of problems facing the trucking industry and the nation.
The groups are composed of businesses from heavy commodity industries such as the paper, logging and steel industries, just to name a few, and they are in addition to several mega carriers.
One of the groups, ASET, is even to the point where they are finalizing potential legislative language they are going to shop by members of Congress in an attempt to get it added to the highway funding reauthorization bill being developed right now.
“They are really leaning on the ‘green’ argument and the hurting economy to sell this bad idea,” Nofziger said.
There’s a lengthy list of reasons why opening the door to longer or heavier trucks is a bad idea, Nofziger said. And that’s a list the OOIDA DC staff has been making sure lawmakers are very aware of.
With so much focus on the nation’s aging roads system, it seems almost moronic to open the door to heavier trucks that will damage it even further, he pointed out. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of arguments against heavier trucks.
Nofziger pointed out that while it is an established market within the trucking industry, heavy haul isn’t for everyone.
Right now, heavier trucks are a specialized gig that requires an extended level of oversight at the state level through permitting and such. There is a certain amount of investment and business savvy required to compete in that market. So, by default, truckers who work heavy haul are experienced, safe drivers.
Allowing all trucks to go to 97,000 pounds means any steering wheel holder with little or no training will be sharing the road with the general public.
“This isn’t an easy job by any means at 80,000 pounds,” Nofziger said. “Now they want to let the same incapable drivers loose with 97,000 pounds? That’s crazy.”
Now, with proposed legislation in hand and an upcoming “fly-in” to Washington, DC, planned where they will swam Congress trying to get support for their bill, Nofziger said the time is right to get letters in the mail and beat them to the punch.
Nofziger said the timing is perfect for OOIDA’s membership to mobilize and to write letters to their lawmakers in opposition to the longer and heavier trucks.
“OOIDA is a leader in opposing this issue,” Nofziger said. “With 160,000 members writing letters, sharing their experiences and concerns and pointing out how wrong this idea is, the better chance we have of putting this issue to rest once again.”
Letters outlining personal experiences with longer or heavier trucks, explaining that upping the weight limits will force small-business operators to upgrade equipment in a down economy, and detailing safety concerns go a long way toward educating lawmakers, Nofziger said.
If you don’t know who your lawmakers in Congress are, you can call OOIDA’s Membership Department at 800-444-5791 and they will look it up for you.
– By Jami Jones, senior editor