Fleetowner 5807 Ribble 2

Truck weight increase rejected

Nov. 4, 2015
White House opposes FMCSA reforms

The House version of six-year, $325 billion surface transportation authorization reached the chamber floor Tuesday as members debated the first set of amendments to the bipartisan plan approved two weeks ago by the House Transportation committee.

In trucking-related legislation, a shipper-backed highway bill amendment to increase truck weight limits to 91,000 pounds on the Interstate system for trucks with a sixth axle was defeated in an evening vote.

The legislation by Rep. Reid Ribble, which received spotty support from the trucking industry, failed by a 187-236 vote.

The bill would have given states the option of increasing the weight limit on designated federal highways. Ribble emphasized that many states already allow heavier trucks on smaller state roads, and that his bill would shift many of those trucks to the Interstates, “where they belong.” Additionally, the increased weight limits would reduce truck trips, along with fuel use and CO2 emissions.

Opponents, however, cited a Dept. of Transportation study that recommended no changes in current truck size and weight limits, additional damage to roads and bridges, and the dangers of heavier and longer vehicles.

Ribble explained that the DOT recommendation was political, and that the actual study—while inclusive because of insufficient data—actually showed that heavier trucks are more safe.  Nor would the 91,000-pound limit exceed current Interstate bridge design limits; the configuration, in fact, would reduce life-cycle pavement costs. And, Ribble emphasized, the legislation in no way increased truck length. (See the amendment debate below.)

Ahead of the floor debate, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that credited the bipartisan effort, but criticized the funding level as inadequate. Instead, the Obama administration continues to push its own GROW America Act.

“Indeed, as the Nation's population rises and our existing infrastructure ages, funding at baseline levels as proposed in H.R. 22 will guarantee that roadway conditions and congestion worsen in the years ahead,” the memo reads. “The Congress should be thinking big, not locking in a worsening system.”

Among specific concerns, the statement cites provisions in the bill that require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to stop publishing some truck and bus safety data. Additionally, the White House objects to provisions that reform FMCSA and the way it develops regulations, “but the Administration has already established an effective retrospective review process without legislation.”

“The Administration is focused every day on what can be done to expand opportunity for every American,” the statement concludes. “For America to succeed, we need the best, safest infrastructure in the world, and the Federal Government needs to lead the way.”

Also Tuesday, the House Rules Committee blocked consideration of Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-OR) amendment to raise the federal gas tax. The amendment would have raised federal gas and diesel taxes 15 cents over three years and indexed them to inflation.

“Congress should have the opportunity to show the courage and vision to do what Ronald Reagan did in 1982 and what seven Republican states have already done this year – raise the gas tax to provide stable and meaningful funding for transportation,” said Blumenauer. “I’m deeply disappointed that we are considering what alleges to be a six-year authorization without a real conversation about paying for it. This is a missed opportunity to provide certainty for the hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake and give states and local governments the federal partnership they need and deserve.”

Another set of amendments to H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act is scheduled for consideration Wednesday.

About the Author

Kevin Jones 1 | Editor

Kevin Jones has an odd fascination with the supply chain. As editor of American Trucker, he focuses on the critical role owner-ops and small fleets play in the economy, locally and globally. And he likes big trucks.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Report: The 2024 State of Heavy-Duty Repair

From capitalizing on the latest revenue trends to implementing strategic financial planning—this report serves as a roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities of ...

Fleet Industry Benchmarks: How does your fleet stack up?

Discover how your fleet compares to industry benchmarks and gain insights from a 2024 Benchmarking Report on maintenance spend, turnaround time, and more. Join us to identify ...

Build a Tolling Program to Manage Toll Fees and Risks

Fleets looking to effectively manage their operational costs should consider their tolling costs. Download the PrePass whitepaper, “Build a Tolling Program to Manage Toll Fees...

Reducing CSA Violations & Increasing Safety With Advanced Trailer Telematics

Keep the roads safer with advanced trailer telematics. In this whitepaper, see how you can gain insights that lead to increased safety and reduced roadside incidents—keeping drivers...