A provision has been added to an omnibus government funding bill that would extend the Maine and Vermont truck weight pilot program for one year. The provision – secured on Tuesday, Dec. 14, by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) – would ensure that the pilot program will continue giving heavier six-axle trucks full access to interstate highways in Maine and Vermont.
Prior to the pilot program, introduced last year by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Collins, commercial vehicles weighing more than 80,000 pounds often were barred from interstate travel and diverted onto state and local roads. The Obama administration and Maine DOT both have supported the permanent extension of the pilot program and have credited it with having improved safety and productivity on Maine and Vermont highways.
“Thanks to Senator Collins, it’s likely that truck transportation in Maine and Vermont will continue to be safe, efficient and productive in the coming year,” says John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a group of 180 shippers and allied associations backing increased federal weight limits on interstate highways.
The Senate must now pass the omnibus funding bill and send it back to the U.S. House of Representatives for its approval. “The pilot’s extension is certain to be a tremendous victory for national truck weight reform,” Runyan says. “CTP continues to work with Congress to enact the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act so that all states will have the option to move heavier traffic from state roads, where intersections, school crossings and driveways complicate the drive, to interstate highways that are safer and better engineered for heavier loads.”
SETA (H.R. 1799 / S. 3705) would permit states to set interstate weight limits of up to 97,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles instead of five. Without making the truck any larger, the additional axle would be required to maintain safety specifications, including stopping capability and current weight per tire. CTP says SETA would make the shipment of heavier cargo more efficient because many trucks meet the current 80,000-pound federal weight limit with space left in their rigs. Under SETA, shippers could utilize extra cargo space and reduce truck loads, fuel, emissions and vehicle miles traveled for each ton of freight shipped, according to CTP.
SETA originally was introduced in the House by Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio). It currently has 54 cosponsors. In August, Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Collins introduced identical Senate legislation.
Runyan says that like Maine and Vermont, more than 40 other states have state weight limits that exceed the federal interstate weight limit and must relegate heavier traffic to busy state roads. “It’s only logical that higher productivity trucks belong on interstates, where they can safely and efficiently deliver freight,” he says. “The success of the Maine and Vermont pilot program demonstrates the effectiveness of carefully crafted truck weight reform and sets the stage for the eventual enactment and nationwide implementation of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act.”