A proposal to increase the maximum weight limit on Interstate highways to 97,000 pounds has been introduced in the U S Senate by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, Maine Senator Susan Collins, and Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl. The three—a Democrat and two Republicans—joined together to introduce the Safe and Efficient Transportation ACT (SETA) of 2010 (S. 3705), a measure that increases truck weights from 80,000 to 97,000 on the Interstate System in any state that would opt in to the plan. Identical legislation (H.R. 1799) in the U.S. House of Representatives has 54 bipartisan co-sponsors.
The measure sets several stipulations for the increased weight. The vehicles would have to be equipped with at least six axles. The legislation is being touted as a way to reduce emissions and decreasing in fuel usage. It leaves it up to the states to determine if the weight increase would be allowed on the highways through that state.
“This bipartisan legislation gives states the option to increase interstate truck weight limits in a safe manner so that we can get more goods from the farm or factory to consumers in fewer trips and fewer vehicle miles,” Crapo said. “Many trucks now hit the federal weight limit with space left in their trailers. The U.S. DOT estimates that the use of six-axle trucks could save as much as $14.5 billion in shipping costs annually. SETA will also make U.S. goods more competitive in the global marketplace, as Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries already have higher weight limits.”
“Our legislation would finally create a level playing field for truck weight limits on interstate highways in all states,” Collins added. “Under federal law, trucks heavier than 80,000 pounds are forced off the interstate and onto local roads in several states, including my home state of Maine, creating safety hazards for motorists and pedestrians and causing road wear and tear. However, a weight exemption for these same trucks permits them to travel on interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. This disparity for certain states simply makes no sense and puts them at an economic disadvantage. Our legislation would allow all states to have the option of increasing truck weight limits on the Interstate System. Keeping heavy trucks on the interstate highways where they belong, and off smaller streets, would improve safety for motorists and pedestrians, and reduce congestion, fuel use, emissions, and road damage.”
“This bipartisan legislation strikes the right balance between productivity and safety,” said Kohl. “This common sense bill will make a big impact on the countless businesses and industries that depend on trucks to move their products. I’ve met with a number of people in Wisconsin who say this legislation will make their business more efficient and allow them to invest in their company and add jobs. This legislation will allow us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut air pollution, and keep American businesses competitive.”
The American Trucking Association estimates that the trucking industry will haul 30 percent more tonnage in 2021 than it does today. Without the weight increase, our economy will require 18 percent more trucks on the road by that time. Under S. 3705, the weight limit adjustment would safely reduce the number of trucks required to ship a given amount of goods.