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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

U.S. Rep. Ribble wants states to decide truck weight

A bill that would allow states to decide whether to allow heavier trucks on their roads has been introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.).

The Safe, Flexible and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act of 2015 (H.R. 3488) would allow states to determine whether they want to allow freight shipping trucks to carry a maximum 91,000 pounds, up from the current 80,000 pounds.

The proposed legislation also would require heavier trucks to have a sixth axle, up from the current five, in order to ensure the same or better stopping distance and pavement wear, according to a press release issued by Ribble's office.

Ribble noted that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has indicated that such a configuration would be compliant with the existing federal bridge formula.

"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," Ribble said.

"Our counterparts in Canada and Europe have already had success with trucks over 100,000 pounds on their roads, and in Maine, which was granted a special exception to allow heavier trucks on their roads, road deaths are at 70-year lows,” he added.

Ribble noted that the bill is supported by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and other industry experts.

The rail industry has long opposed legislation that would allow heavier or longer trucks to travel on the nation’s highways, however.

A statement on the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) website notes that current weight restrictions have been in place for years out of concerns for safety, as well as the damage bigger trucks can cause to highways and roadways.

A USDOT study released in June noted that if federal truck weights were increased to 91,000 pounds, more than 4,800 bridges would need to be strengthened or repaired to handle the additional weight. Those repairs would cost taxpayers more than $1.1 billion, the AAR website noted.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/16/2015