Idaho nears permanent authority for heavier trucks

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/25/2013

Idaho lawmakers endorsed a plan to 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.

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 House voted 69-1 to advance a bill to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk that would make the change permanent. House lawmakers also voted in recent days to approve a bill that 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 of truck size and weight increases refer to an Idaho Transportation Department report, which found that the weight change authorized 10 years ago 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.

Opponents, including OOIDA, 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.

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

More than 30 officials in Northern Idaho opposed the effort to authorize the heavy trucks.

A major concern expressed by the group in a joint letter to lawmakers is that the region’s roadways are not built to accommodate bigger vehicles. Specifically, they cited mountainous, curvy roads that are often wet.

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

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