Idaho bill would permanently authorize heavier trucks on some roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/1/2013

An effort on the move in the Idaho Senate would make permanent a decade-old pilot project permitting heavier trucks on certain roadways. More roads could also be added.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes truck size and weight increases. The Association lobbied successfully to remove language to increase truck size and weight in the law known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).

In 2003, Idaho lawmakers approved a pilot project authorizing multiple trailer trucks with overweight permits to weigh up to 129,000 pounds, rather than the previous restriction of 105,500 pounds. The trucks are allowed on 35 southern Idaho routes.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, Feb. 28, approved two bills that would make the change permanent and open the possibility of adding roads in northern Idaho. The bills are S1064 and S1117, respectively.

Supporters say that truck size and weight increases are a win-win scenario. They refer to an Idaho Transportation Department report that found the weight change saved companies money and reduced truck trips without much change to wear and tear on affected roads. Additionally, the agency reports there wasn’t an increased danger to the public.

OOIDA officials question the results. They point to a congressionally mandated pilot program in Vermont on heavier trucks. A Federal Highway Administration report notes that “the higher axle weights of these trucks increased estimated pavement damage” by about 12 percent.

“This translates into significant increases in both pavement maintenance and repair costs because of the need for more frequent work and increased vehicle operating costs due to damaged pavement.”

The federal study also found that crash rates increased by 10 percent on Vermont interstates and by 24 percent on non-interstates during the pilot period.

Opponents of the plan to authorize heavier trucks in northern Idaho testified Thursday that the region’s roadways are not built to accommodate bigger vehicles. Specifically, they cited mountainous, curvy roads that are often wet.

“There is a significant difference in these conditions from southern Idaho to northern Idaho,” said Jerry Deckard, a lobbyist for Associated Logging Contractors of Idaho.

Stuart Davis, executive director for the Idaho Association of Highway Districts, told lawmakers they should hold off on expanding the program to the north.

“There is not enough data to support extending these roads up north. There is no pilot project,” Davis said.

The heavier truck bills next head to the Senate floor. If approved there, they would advance to the House before moving to the governor’s desk.

OOIDA issued a Call to Action this week on the truck bills. The Association encourages Idaho truck drivers to contact their state lawmakers about the heavier truck provisions.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Idaho, click here.

Land Line Magazine Associate Editor David Tanner contributed to this report.

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