Push for heavier trucks in GOP highway bill hits stop sign in House committee

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“Given the threat to safety, the cost to our transportation system and the opposition of the American people, it makes no sense to allow heavier trucks on the road,” Costello said before the vote Thursday.

Barletta, a Republican freshman, agreed.

“America’s infrastructure is already crumbling,” he said. “I believe it’s irresponsible for us to add these extra weights.”

Supporters of the weight increase took exception to the idea that bigger trucks were inherently less safe.

“You can’t disparage the trucking industry by making it seem like a truck coming near is going to cause accidents,” Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said after asking members of the committee “ How many of you have a [commercial driver’s license]?”

“If we adopt this amendment, all we are doing is kicking this problem down the road,” Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) said. “The best thing we can do right now is give the latitude to the states…so we can deliver projects more cheaply.”

Democrats countered that it was more important that trucks on the road were safe than larger.

“If we don’t want to kick it down the road and study it, then let’s kill it,” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) said of the truck weight increase provision. “Safety has to be our number one priority in this committee.”

The biggest opposition to the truck weight increase came from freight rail companies, which competes with trucking companies for shipping contracts.

The trade association for freight rail companies in Washington celebrated the House vote Thursday.

“Amendment passes!,” the organization said on its Twitter page immediately after the vote. "Thanks @RepLouBarletta & @JerryCostello, and the rest of @TransportGOP and @HouseTransInf #nobiggertrucks.”

The group that had argued in favor of the truck weight increase, the Coalition for Trucking Productivity, said before the vote that the provision met the goals for the transportation bill that were set by House Republican leaders.

“The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act recognizes that states need the ability to create safer, greener, more efficient shipping on their interstate highways,” the organization said in a statement Thursday.  “The truck weight provision in the bill simply gives states the ability to open all, or portions of, their interstate networks to more productive, single-trailer trucks equipped with six axles rather than the typical five.”

The Transportation Committee is planning to continue voting on amendments to the surface transportation bill throughout the afternoon.

-This post was corrected from an earlier version that incorrectly quoted Rep. Billy Long at 6:08 p.m.