Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to allow states to raise the gross vehicle weight limit for trucks operating on the Interstate Highway System from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds.
At the same time, the bill, S. 3705, would require that trucks carrying single-trailer units and operating above 80,000 pounds add a sixth axle to compensate for the extra weight. Proponents say the extra axle minimizes additional damage to road pavement and adds braking capacity, preventing an increase in stopping distances.
Current law limits the gross vehicle weight of five-axle trucks traveling on the Interstate System to 80,000 pounds. Gross vehicle weight is the total weight of the rig, trailer, and diesel fuel when the trailer is loaded.
The bill, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA) of 2010, was introduced Aug. 4 by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) The bill mirrors identical legislation already introduced in the House of Representatives.
The American Trucking Associations hailed the measure, saying it will foster truck efficiencies by enabling the same amount of freight to be hauled in fewer trips. This will result in safer highways, cleaner air, and lower shipping costs, the association said.
Existing restrictions on truck weight prevent the industry from reducing the incidence of crashes and minimizing its carbon footprint, the group said.
Critics of the long-standing proposal, like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, have said the widespread use of longer, heavier equipment would result in higher taxes and insurance costs, inflict further damage on already overburdened highways, and create safety problems as drivers struggle with rigs and trailers that are more challenging to operate.