Idaho Legislature backs heavier trucks statewide

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Idaho House has cleared the way for a bill to move to the governor that would authorize heavier trucks to access the state’s interstate highway system.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes truck size and weight increases.

On a 65-2 vote, House lawmakers endorsed a bill to permit loads weighing up to 129,000 pounds on Interstates 15, 84, 86, 90 and 184 – up from 105,500 pounds.

Reps. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, voted in opposition to the weight increase. Specifically, Wintrow voiced concern about the inclusion of I-184 in the bill.

“I’m struggling with this bill,” she said during recent committee discussion. “There is no way to go on that interstate but off into cities. ... That seems troubling to me.”

The bill, S1229, now moves to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk for his signature. Senate lawmakers already approved the bill on a 31-3 vote.

The U.S. Congress gave Idaho permission late last year to pursue the change.

Advocates say the change would benefit shippers who now must downsize loads entering from Montana, Nevada and Utah – all of which permit at least 129,000-pound loads. Wyoming allows loads up to 117,000 pounds.

Sen Bert Brackett, the bill’s sponsor, said it is a simple bill that aligns the state with the recently passed federal legislation.

“(The bill) is the final step to fully implement this effort in Idaho,” Brackett, R-Rogerson, recently testified.

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

A decade later the change became permanent. In addition, a separate 2013 law permitted the state to add roads in northern Idaho – as long as local highway officials agree.

Supporters of truck size and weight increases also refer to an Idaho Transportation Department report that found the weight change authorized 10 years ago saved companies money and reduced truck trips without much change to wear and tear on affected roads. Additionally, the agency reported 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 noted that pavement damage and crash rates each increased by at least 10 percent.

Once signed into law, the weight change is expected to take effect July 1, 2016.

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

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