Should trucks be allowed to grow to 110 feet, more than five times as long as a passenger car? Will increasing their maximum weight to 97,000 pounds tear up local roads? Are heavier or longer trucks more dangerous to other drivers?Those three questions were debated by the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, framing one of the more contentious issues to emerge from a five-year transportation bill proposed by House Republicans.
On a day when the committee broke down along party lines as it acted on about 100 amendments to a bill that was made public Tuesday, the truck issue split party ranks.After about two hours of debate, the committee voted 33-22 to amend the bill, disallowing the larger trucks until a three-year study determines the impact.
Trucking interests, short on drivers and eager to maximize their payloads, lobbied hard for the increases in weight and length that were included in the House bill. They say that adding a sixth axle to the trucks will minimize the damage they do to roads and they discount the argument of safety advocates who say that heavier or longer trucks pose a danger.
GOP supporters on the committee Thursday contended that states should be allowed to decide whether to allow trucks to grow. Some states already allow the larger trucks. Some Democrats, joined by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), challenged all of those contentions and argued that while heavier trucks might do less damage to more substantial interstate highways, they would rip up local roads. They sought a three-year study of the issue before allowing longer or heavier trucks.The third player in the debate is the freight railroad industry that competes with trucking company for long-haul loads.