The nation's trucking and railroad industries have agreed to put aside their differences over whether the nation should allow bigger trucks on the highways … at least for now.
In late June, the American Trucking Associations and the Association of American Railroads said they would support continuation of current federal limits on truck sizes and weights when Congress takes up debate on the renewal of the nation's highway funding law. The groups said the agreement would remain in place for the life of the reauthorization, including short-term extensions and any interim reauthorizations. (Although Congress is considering reauthorization of the current law, TEA-21, some observers expect it to pass a short-term extension of the law while it considers more pressing issues.)
The dispute over truck sizes and weights has long been a contentious one between the two industries. Many truckers would like to operate larger and longer trucks to achieve productivity gains. But so-called longer combination vehicles (LCVs)—those with double or triple trailers —are severely restricted in most parts of the country. The railroads in the past have joined forces with highway safety advocates in an effort to prevent expanded use of the LCVs and to roll back current size and weight allowances.
But as the truckers have become a more important customer of the railroads —intermodal transportation is the fastest-growing sector of the rail business—the two industries have made more efforts to find common ground. For example, both organizations participate in a group called the Freight Stake holders Coalition that is pressing to ensure that freight interests are recognized in the highway funding authorization.
TEA-21, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, was enacted in 1998 and expires this year. In May, the Department of Transportation proposed a new law, dubbed SAFETEA (the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003). That proposal called for a six-year reauthorization of the surface transportation law and proposed $247 billion in spending authority.