Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is joining with Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Wisconsin Democrat Sen. Herb Kohl to propose legislation that would increase the allowable weight of heavy trucks by 17,000 pounds. As one gubernatorial candidate presses for higher for fees for heavy trucks to pay for the wear they put on the roads, Crapo and others are working to keep more trucks off the road by allowing the increase in the tonnage each truck can carry.
The bill, officially known as the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), would allow trucks to jump to 97,000 pounds in weight, up from the currently allowed 80,000 pounds. Trucks would be required to be six axles or more and states would not have to be part of the plan, but could opt-in.
Crapo says the move would make the shipping systems of the United States comparable to those of competing countries. "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," said Crapo. "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.”
“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 ... This legislation will allow us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut air pollution, and keep American businesses competitive.”
The announcement by the three senators comes as Idaho state government ponders how to raise additional revenue for road construction. A task force set up by Gov. Butch Otter announced last month that heavy trucks may be underpaying for road maintenance by about 14 percent, while motorists who drive light trucks and cars may be overpaying by about 8 percent. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred proposed cutting the state's gas tax by 3 cents, a proposal Otter and the chairman of the task force, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, said wasn't credible.
Kathy Fowers, spokesperson with the Idaho Trucking Association, told IdahoReporter.com that trucks in Idaho already pay their fair share in fees and taxes. "We already pay $17,000 a year in user fees and taxes for the state and federal governments," Fowers explained. "Taxes and fees that truckers pay now more than compensate for the added thickness needed to handle trucks."
Crapo's plan could help to keep more trucks off the roadways. According to the announcement, the American Trucking Association believes that the trucking industry will haul 30 percent more tonnage in 2021 that in 2010. "Without the weight increase, our economy will require 18 percent more trucks on the road by that time," says the press release. "Under SETA, the weight limit adjustment would safely reduce the number of trucks required to ship a given amount of goods.” The plan by the three senators did not specify if a fee increase for the added weight would be included in the legislation, but Susan Wheeler, spokesperson for Crapo, said that a fee for trucks weighing more than 55,000 pounds is already assesses to help cover the cost of bridge maintenance.