Truckers' opposition defeats attempt to increase truck weights in highway bill

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Apparently adamant about having 91,000-pound trucks on all of the nation’s interstates, a Wisconsin lawmaker tried to introduce an amendment to the House version of a long-term highway bill on Tuesday. It was soundly rejected.

Rep. Reid Ribble, a Republican serving the home district of trucking giant Schneider, introduced legislation in early September seeking to increase truck weights. The move is being backed by a coalition of 200 large motor carriers, shippers and manufacturers.

The stand-alone bill was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit where it has yet to come up for consideration or debate.

Not waiting on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee to act on his stand-alone bill, Ribble introduced an amendment during the House consideration of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 on Tuesday.

OOIDA issued a Call to Action to its members on Monday asking them to call their lawmaker in the House and oppose Ribble’s amendment.

Following a short debate on Ribble’s amendment, a voice vote declared the amendment defeated. The lawmaker requested a roll call vote. Held later Tuesday evening, the roll call vote confirmed that the amendment was defeated with 187 votes for the amendment and 236 against. There were 10 lawmakers who did not vote on the amendment.

“It was a tremendous showing of opposition by our membership. When you talk to an OOIDA member, it is clear they simply don’t want to drive bigger and heavier trucks,” said Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, OOIDA director of government affairs. “We applaud the members of the House who were with us and voted against this ill-conceived idea to allow 91,000 pounds on our nation’s highways.”

OOIDA has long been opposed to increasing truck weights. Primarily, the Association points out that the already deteriorating roads and bridges around the country can’t take much more. Research indicates that any increase in allowable truck weight will actually make highways less safe and place additional burdens on our overstressed infrastructure.

Fully supportive of a national truck driver training standard, the Association states that the demands of driving a load with more weight require more skill and experience. In the absence of a national training standard, opening up all carriers to more weight on their trucks ensures that inexperienced drivers will be tasked with handling 91,000 pounds – with little or no training.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston recently sent a letter in opposition to Ribble’s stand-alone bill attempt to increase truck weight.

“We know first-hand the experience and knowledge it takes to safely operate a truck and understand the impact that heavier trucks will have on our nation’s roads,” Johnston wrote. “It takes a lot of braking power and extensive training to safely operate these vehicles.”

Further illustrating the safety concerns with increasing the allowable weight on trucks, Johnston pointed out to House leadership that trucks carrying more than 80,000 pounds have 20 percent more brake violations as well as overall higher violations – including out-of-service violations – when compared with trucks at or below current weight limits.

Click here to see how your lawmaker voted on the Ribble amendment.

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