House to vote on highway bill amendment to allow heavier trucks

House to vote on highway bill amendment to allow heavier trucks
© Getty Images

A proposed amendment to a $325 billion highway funding bill that is being considered by the House to let states decide whether they want to allow heavier trucks on their roads has been cleared for a vote on the floor of the lower chamber later this week.

The amendment, from Reps. Reid RibbleReid James RibbleKeep our elections free and fair Setting the record straight about No Labels With Trump, conservatives hope for ally in 'War on Christmas' MORE (R-Wis.), Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderCaution for Democrats: Voters care more about drug pricing than impeaching Trump Here are the House Democrats who aren't backing Trump impeachment inquiry Centrist Democrats fret over impeachment gamble MORE (D-Ore.), David RouzerDavid Cheston RouzerNorth Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill MORE (R-N.C.) and Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonHow centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment GOP lawmaker says House impeachment rules vote 'doesn't change anything for me' Majority of Americans see impeachment inquiry as fair: poll MORE (D-Minn.), would allow states to decide whether they want to increase a current limit of 80,000 pounds for cargo trucks to 91,000 pounds in an attempt to end a bitter fight over truck weights that has raged for years in Washington. The proposal was cleared for a floor vote on Monday night by the House Rules Committee. 

Trucking companies have pushed to increase the weight limit for years, arguing that it would increase the amount of cargo that can be shipped without requiring drivers to work extra hours. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Safety advocates have sought to block the increase — and limit the number of hours truckers can drive — arguing that heavier loads would make trucks more likely to crash. 

The sponsors of the amendment have said allowing states to decide for themselves would end the standoff between truck companies and safety advocates. 

"The reality is that our roads are already overcrowded with families heading to school and work, and trucks carrying the things we buy across the country," Ribble said in a statement when the measure was first introduced in September.

"The U.S. population has almost doubled since our Interstate highway system was built, and demand for freight shipping is only going up," he continued. "The SAFE Trucking Act will help us safely move more of the things Americans want with fewer trucks taking up space on the road, and it is based on data to ensure that truck stopping times and pavement wear are as good or better than our current trucks. When we can increase efficiency, decrease traffic, and make everyone safer in the process, that is a win, and the SAFE Trucking Act is able to help us achieve all these objectives."

On Tuesday, supporters of the proposal to allow states to approve heavier trucks applauded Congress for attaching the provision to the highway funding bill. 

"In the agriculture and food industries, our farms and businesses are growing and making products more resourcefully, but outdated federal transportation rules force trucks to leave the farm and our plants when they are partly empty," a group of 70 agriculture organizations wrote in a letter to Congress on behalf of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), which is pushing for the proposed truck weight increase. 

"By giving states the option to raise the federal gross vehicle weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles rather than the typical five, the SAFE Trucking Act would safely modernize truck shipments on Interstate highways by reducing the number of trucks needed to move our commodities and products through better utilization of existing capacity,” the group's letter continued.  

Safety advocates, meantime, blasted the latest development. 

Railroad groups, which stand to lose business if more cargo can be moved on trucks, have sided with safety groups in opposing the move to increase truck weight limits. 

"The added truck weight will further destroy precious national infrastructure and cost taxpayers dearly,” Association of American Railroads President Ed Hamberger said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"Allowing trucks to be 14 percent heavier would be a fundamental change to national policy," he continued. "Lawmakers should strike this amendment before sending a final highway bill to the White House for the President’s signature.”