Senate bill proposes temporary weight increase on federal highways

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The U.S. Senate will consider legislation that would temporarily increase weight limits on federal highways from 80,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds for a trial period of two years when diesel prices are above $3.50 per gallon.

The Commercial Truck Fuel Savings Demonstration Act of 2008, S. 3059, was introduced May 28 by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). The bill, which has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also would require the Government Accountability Office to complete a report about safety and other concerns at the completion of the pilot program.

“Our nation faces record high energy prices, affecting almost every aspect of daily life,” Collins said during a press conference outside the Maine Motor Transport Association’s headquarters in Augusta. “The rapidly growing price of diesel is putting an increasing strain on our trucking industry, which is the cornerstone of our economy. Current laws that force trucks carrying more than 80,000 pounds off the federal interstate system, and onto smaller two-lane roads, simply do not make sense. This legislation would lessen the fuel cost burden on truckers by putting these trucks back on the federal interstate where they belong.”

Under current law, trucks weighing 100,000 pounds are allowed to travel on the portion of Interstate 95 designated as the Maine Turnpike, which runs from New Hampshire to Augusta, where the Turnpike designation ends, even though I-95 proceeds another 200 miles north to Houlton. At Augusta, however, heavy trucks must exit the highway and are forced onto secondary roads, increasing wear and tear on those lanes, Collins said. Trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds are permitted on interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York, as well as the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec.