Idaho Senate advances permanent authority for heavier trucks

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/11/2013

Halfway through the Idaho Legislature is a bill that 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 voted 22-13 to advance a bill to the House that would make the change permanent. A second Senate-approved bill would open the possibility of adding roads in northern Idaho – as long as local highway officials agree. The bills are S1064 and S1117, respectively.

Supporters say there are no negatives to authorizing truck size and weight increases. They refer to an Idaho Transportation Department report that found the weight increase saved companies money and reduced truck trips without much change to wear and tear on affected roads. In addition, 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 pavement damage and crash rates each increased by at least 10 percent.

More than 30 officials in Northern Idaho sent a joint letter to Senate lawmakers opposing the bill. A major concern is that the region’s roadways are not built to accommodate bigger vehicles. Specifically, they cited mountainous, curvy roads that are often wet.

“From our perspective, bigger and heavier trucks on northern roads are too great a risk,” wrote Clay Larkin, mayor of Post Falls. “We need to take into account the effects this increase will have on our public safety as well as on our fragile infrastructure.”

OOIDA has issued a Call to Action 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.

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