OOIDA, lawmakers urge rejection of truck weight bill

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/27/2013

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 circulated a letter this week urging Congress to reject the bill, HR612, which would allow longer and heavier trucks to operate on the National Highway System.

Congress rejected longer-heavier trucks in the current highway bill MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, which became law in July 2012.

Lawmakers instead called for the U.S. Department of Transportation to study the effects of longer and heavier trucks on the nation’s infrastructure, highway safety, efficiency and the economy. That study will take some time.

OOIDA supports the current freeze on truck weight at 80,000 pounds on five axles and the numerous state exemptions that existed prior to the freeze in 1982.

“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 Tuesday, 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.”

On Feb. 22, the American Trucking Associations sent a letter to Congress in support of HR612. The bill co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud, D-ME, and Reed Ribble, R-WI, would give states the power to increase truck weights from the current 80,000 on five axles to 97,000 pounds on six axles. The ATA says longer and heavier trucks are cleaner, safer and more efficient.

But some lawmakers are already pushing back as Congress gears up for the next highway bill authorization in 2014.

“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.”

Johnston points out that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee rejected a truck size and weight increase last year by a vote of 33-22. That rejection jells with what small-business trucking professionals believe about truck size and weight.

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.”

Johnston is urging Congress and proponents of truck size increases to instead join together to tackle efficiency issues, especially the amount of time wasted by delaying truckers at warehouses and loading docks.

“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.”

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