Big rigs won't be getting any bigger -- for a while

A House committee vote Thursday means the size of tractor-trailers won't change for awhile.

Story highlights

  • An amendment keeps tractor-trailer sizes and weights at current levels for now
  • A three-year study will look at potential costs of allowing longer, heavier trucks
  • "The cost of fixing ... roads is in the hands of local taxpayers," says one congressman
A House committee passed a measure Thursday maintaining current tractor-trailer sizes and weights for three years until a study can be completed on the potential costs incurred by allowing longer and heavier trucks on U.S. roads.
The measure before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee came as an amendment to a transportation bill and was passed after opponents of the bill, including the AAA Auto Club, cited concerns about allowing heavier trucks on already-crumbling infrastructure.
The original legislation, which includes authorizing about $260 billion over five years for federal highway programs,contained a controversial provision allowing heavier tractor-trailer trucks on highways by increasing the federal weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds. In some cases, it would have allowed 126,000-pound trucks onto highways.
The legislation also would allow the largest rigs, which comprise two and sometimes three trailers, to be as much as 10 feet longer -- a total length of more than 100 feet.
"All trips begin and end on local roads. The cost of fixing these roads is in the hands of local taxpayers. Heavier trucks will damage local roads, which are not built to handle the extra weight," said Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania, who offered the amendment with Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Illinois.
"Local roads will become potholed, buckled, and broken much more quickly. They will need to be repaired and replaced sooner, and the cost for that will fall squarely on local governments and local taxpayers," Barletta said in a statement.
But the Coalition for Transportation Productivity said this is a matter that has already been studied and it's time to put heavier trucks on the road.
"It really is 'Groundhog Day' today because this very committee asked the Transportation Research Board to study this same issue back in 1998, and the Board strongly endorsed truck weight reform," said CTP Executive Director John Runyan in a statement.
"There is no need to commit further study to this truck weight proposal. 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," Runyan said.
Safety is another concern for opponents who don't want longer or heavier trucks on the road and the three-year study will help buy time for them.
"We all value the importance of trucks to our economy, to our recovery ... but the trucks have to share the roads with our families, and that's why we're never going to let trucks take a priority over the well-being of our families," Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, said Wednesday.