Group seeks pilot on larger trucks

A coalition of carriers and shippers pushing for larger truck capacities is trying to win approval in the next highway bill for a demonstration project allowing larger truck combinations in five states.

For several years, Americans for Safe and Efficient Transportation, whose members are mostly involved in transportation or manufacturing of bulk materials, has been advocating an increase in the federal maximum weight to 97,000 pounds on a three-axle trailer.

ASET members met recently with congressional staff representing Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Georgia. The alliance chose those states for two reasons – the significance of ASET members to their economies and their status as either a border or port state.

Because Canada, Mexico and most of Europe operate heavier trucks on six axles, containers arriving at a U.S. port or trucks arriving at the U.S. border often require either permits or the breakup of freight, ASET says. The coalition proposes close monitoring of heavier trucks in the five states to assess the impact on accident rates, infrastructure investments and productivity.

The Teamsters Union lashed out at the ASET plan. “The idea of letting bigger trucks on the road is just crazy,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “They’re extremely dangerous, and they ruin our roads and bridges, which are already in bad shape.”

In response to ASET’s lobbying effort, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., again introduced a bill May 15 to keep tractor-trailers limited to 80,000 pounds and trailers to 53 feet. Lautenberg, whose bill was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works, first introduced the legislation in 2003 and wrote the law that limits triple-trailer trucks to a few states.