Lawmakers Weighing Benefits of Higher Weight Trucksby Jana Ritter - Published: 3/05/2013
In an attempt to attract more international freight to Florida's ports, Gov. Rick Scott has already gone ahead and raised the state's previous weight limit of trucks hauling intermodal containers from 95,000 pounds, now allowing up to 100,000 pounds. The rule changes are part of Scott's drive to promote Florida as a gateway and to prepare the state and its ports for the potential increase in freight when the Panama Canal's expansion project is completed in 2015.
Scott said the adjustment, along with other regulatory changes, is intended to ease the permitting process for overweight and oversize truckloads. Mary Lou Rajchel, president of the Florida Trucking Association, said her group supports the moves. “As an essential industry that is the sole means of supply for more th an 80% of the state’s communities, Florida’s trucking industry appreciates the critical role trucking plays in this equation,” Rajchel said.
Florida's decision comes after recently introduced legislation in Congress seeking to hike the maximum truck weight on Interstate highways. H.R. 612, also known as The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013, calls for the same thing as bills in the previous two sessions of Congress: To move the federal weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds, if a tractor-trailer has a sixth axle. It would give individual states the final say-so if they wanted to go down this path.
While Idaho and Ohio are two other states considering higher weights on their own, House member Michael Michaud of Maine has introduced another bill making Maine's 20-year pilot program of allowing 100,000-pound truck on its Interstate routes, a permanent law. Despite the benefits to both the trucking industry and the US economy, several groups are already opposing the higher weight truck limits.
So far the bill has drawn at least three negative letters. One is from the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. In the group’s address to House member, President Jim Johnston, resident said, “While proponents talk about savings from heavier trucks, for the small business truckers that make up 90% of the trucking industry, heavier trucks only mean higher fuel, repair and equipment costs, including the likelihood of spending tens of thousands of dollars on new trailers designed to haul the heavier weight simply to remain competitive.”
Also condemning the legislation are the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the Railway Supply Institute, the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Transportation Communications International Union and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees. The Railroad Coalition argues that the federal highway funding bill signed into law last year mandates the U.S. Transportation Department conduct a two-year study on the effects of increasing truck weights and sizes and says passing such legislation before would be “premature.”
In contrast, the American Trucking Associations has long been on record as supporting bigger and heavier trucks.