Continuing its decades-long assault on the taxpayer-financed public highway system, the trucking lobby this week engineered the introduction of a Senate bill that if approved would allow states to decide whether to allow 97,000-pound trucks on highways, “breaking a 20-year federal freeze on truck sizes and weights” as reported by the Journal of Commerce. The bill is named “The Senate Safe and Efficient Transportation Act,” although many would disagree with the title’s allusion to “safety.”That last sentence is clearly editorializing. The distorting effect of road taxes is in the details of the act.
JOC Reporter William B. Cassidy writes: “It’s the latest action in a long-running battle over the freeze on federal truck size and weight limits Congress imposed in the surface transportation law of 1991. The bill would give states the authority to lift the 80,000 pound gross vehicle weight limit, but only for tractor-trailers with six axles instead of the usual five.One additional axle assembly to beat up the road, no net change in axle loading to beat up the bridges. Would the trucking companies make the same decision if they had the responsibility for maintaining their rights-of-way?
The additional axle does not affect truck size, but it does allow shippers to utilize extra cargo space in the trailer, effectively adding capacity without adding trucks. The Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a group of more than 180 shippers and trucking companies, supports lifting the truck weight limit.