In the early hours last Friday morning, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a five-year, $260-billion Highway Reauthorization Bill along party lines by a vote of 29 to 24. Although the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA) was included in the committee chairman’s markup of the Highway Bill, the committee voted, by amendment, to strip SETA and replace it with a federal three-year study.
SETA would have allowed states to raise truck weight limits on gross vehicle weight up to 97,000 pounds for six-axle, single-trailer trucks that operate on the Interstate system within their borders. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) introduced the amendment to strike the truck provisions from the Highway Bill and replace them with a comprehensive study of truck weight limits to be developed by the Dept. of Transportation within three years. The amendment passed by a vote of 33 to 22.
'No Need for Study,' Coalition Says
“There is no need to commit further study to this issue," said John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity. "Voluminous academic research and practical on-the-ground experience has proven that states should have the option to put more productive, six-axle trucks on Interstates. It is a safe and effective way to boost highway efficiency and productivity without increasing truck size or making trucks ‘bigger’ in any way.”
IDFA and other members of the coalition expressed disappointment in the outcome but remain optimistic for when the Highway Bill comes to the House floor.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has hinted that the full House of Representatives will consider the Highway Bill under an open rule as early as next week, giving members the opportunity to examine the full bill and offer amendments on the House floor. This option would provide another opportunity to press Congress to give states the option of allowing heavier trucks with six axles on interstate highways.
SETA is supported by a broad range of stakeholders in the dairy industry because it would allow more efficient use of transportation capacity and reduce both miles and fuel costs for getting milk from the farm to plant to consumer. Members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with significant dairy presence were supportive of heavier truck weights, including Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Billy Long (R-MO), Thomas Petri (R-WI), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Jean Schmidt (R-OH) and Tim Walz (D-MN).
IDFA will continue its work with the Coalition for Transportation Productivity and others in the dairy industry to seek implementation of SETA. For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at email@example.com or Chelsee Woodey, IDFA director of legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.