Competing bills filed on truck weights

The chairman of the Senate Surface Transportation committee has filed a bill to block alternative legislation that allows a heavier weight for trucks on highways. 

Sen. Frank Lautenberg's (D-N.J.) legislation, dubbed the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act of 2011, would continue a ban on trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds or being longer than 53 feet. It also would expand the current ban from the interstate highway system to the national highway system. 

But last month another measure, backed by Democrats and Republicans, was filed to allow states to permit trucks on their roads up to 97,000 pounds if they have six axles instead of five. 

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Each side said their measure makes roads safer.

"Keeping super sized tractor-trailers off our roads will save lives and protect our highways and bridges from heavy damage,” Lautenberg said in a statement Tuesday.  “We know how important trucks are to our economy, but trucks share the roads with our families and we must take every step possible to avoid senseless tragedies.  This legislation takes a balanced, common-sense approach to maintaining our highways, keeping our economy moving forward, and making sure our roads are safe for everyone traveling on them.”

“SETA is a narrowly drawn bill that enables companies to move a given amount of product in fewer vehicles without adding more weight per tire or increasing stopping distances,” Coalition for Transportation Productivity Executive Director John Runyan said of the alternative legislation, named the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act. 

“SETA is supported by a body of data collected from academic, state, federal and international experts who have evaluated or experienced this proposal and support the logic of the six-axle, 97,000 pound configuration as the new workhorse standard for the American truck fleet," Runyan continued. "Even though higher productivity, six-axle trucks are undeniably safe and more efficient, SETA still puts the decision into the hands of state officials, who are best equipped to determine if the configuration makes sense in their states."

Lautenberg's bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). The bill to allow heavier trucks is co-sponsored by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).