The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is gearing up to fight provisions in the House Republicans’ long-awaited surface transportation bill that would allow states to increase truck size and weight limits.
The bill to improve the nation’s “crumbling” transportation infrastructure would accelerate road and bridge damage and result in taxpayer subsidies to the trucking industry, said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a prepared statement.
The truck size and weight provisions — proposed as part of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, a five-year, $260 billion transportation bill unveiled by House Republicans today — would allow states to increase the truck weight limit to 97,000 pounds from the current 80,000-pound limit, and would allow double- and triple-trailer trucks to travel over longer distances.
“Americans don’t want 97,000-pound trucks or huge multi-trailers up to 120 feet long on our nation’s highways,” Hamberger said. “Nor is it fair that even more of the public’s tax dollars will be used to pay for the road and bridge damage inflicted by massive trucks.”
Currently, heavy trucks pay only a fraction of the cost to repair the nation’s highways damaged by truck transport, he said. An 80,000-pound, five-axle single truck pays about 80 percent of the maintenance cost it inflicts on roads; a 97,000-pound, six-axle single truck would pay about 50 percent of the damage it causes, he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the additional cost of repairing bridge damage caused by raising truck weights to 97,000 pounds could be as much as $65 billion, he added.
“Rather than increasing the taxpayer burden, this bill should ensure that all modes of transportation pay their fair share,” Hamberger said, noting that the freight railroad industry pays for its maintenance of the nation’s rail network with private capital.
Meanwhile, there are rumblings among rail lobbyists that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will take up the bill on Thursday. In a Jan. 27 email, the Railway Supply Institute (RSI) told its members that the committee was “set to vote on SAFETEA-LU reauthorization legislation that would allow for an increase in truck size and weights as a state option as well as allow longer combination vehicles nationwide” as early as Thursday, Feb. 2, adding that “the bill is then expected to be on the House floor for a vote as early as the week of Feb. 13.”
Terming the measure a “very serious threat,” RSI asked its members to call their congressmen and senators to urge them to oppose “any bill or amendment that allows for an increase in truck size and weight regulations.”
However, the head of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is at least “encouraged” that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a U.S. Senate Banking Committee have introduced bills this week that address public transportation.
“Our initial analysis of both the House and Senate bills shows that they include positive policy changes that the public transit industry sought,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “These include improvements in project delivery, innovative financing and public/private sector partnerships.”
Still, both the House and the Senate “will need to address the financing required to support the legislation,” Melaniphy added.