The trucking and rail lobbies are calling a truce in their battle over truck size and weight limits, hoping a measure of intermodal unity will help push a controversial multi-year surface transportation bill through the House of Representatives.
Bill Graves and Ed Hamberger, presidents of the American Trucking Associations and the Association of American Railroads, on Thursday issued a joint statement opposing any floor amendments to the bill modifying its truck weight provision.
“The long-term reauthorization of our nation’s critical surface transportation programs is necessary and long overdue,” Hamberger and Graves said in a brief statement that re-established what one consultant called “an armed truce.” “Passage of H.R. 7 by the House is an important step in the process of reaching an agreement of a long-term, fully funded surface transportation bill,” they said.
H.R. 7 is the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, the five-year, $260 billion bill crafted by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., to replace the much-extended 2005 transportation spending law.
The bill, however, faces a battle royal over such issues as tying highway funding to expanded oil drilling, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the politically charged Keystone pipeline from Western Canada’s oil sands fields.
The bill originally included a provision allowing states to permit trucks weighing up to 97,000 pounds and triple-trailer combinations on highways. The current gross vehicle weight limit is 80,000 pounds, and use of triples is restricted to a few states.
The AAR and rail suppliers, safety advocates, state police, Public Citizen, the Teamsters union and AAA responded with a political blitzkrieg. When the T&I committee approved the bill on Feb. 3, the trucking provision was gone.
In its place, an amendment was added that would require a three-year study of the damage heavier trucks could cause to roads and bridges.
The rail-truck truce doesn’t extend to the other side of the Capitol, where the Senate is considering a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill. But many in the trucking industry consider the an unlikely entrance ramp for heavier trucks and triples.
A Senate committee on Tuesday approved a $9.6 billion package to help plug a $12 billion shortfall in a bipartisan two-year surface transportation bill. The Senate voted 85-11 on Thursday to clear the bill for debate as early as next week.
Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc.