Heavier Semi Weights Defeated


by Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — On Tuesday night, the House of Representatives rejected an effort pushed by the semi-truck industry, and backed by groups such as the Soy Transportation Coalition, to permit six-axle, 91,000 pound semi-trailers on the interstate system.

The proposed floor amendment to the highway bill failed with 187 yes votes to 236 no votes. Seventy-four Republicans joined 162 Democrats to defeat the proposal.

Railroad groups campaigned aggressively against the measure, arguing it “will cost taxpayers billions of dollars in damaged roads and bridges while further straining already depleted federal coffers,” said Ed Hamberger, Association of American Railroads president and CEO. “The amendment should be parked.”

Opponents argued that the 91,000-pound limit would require more engineering, repairs or replacements of nearly 5,000 bridges, according to a Department of Transportation study.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said in a statement last night the amendment by Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., had facts and statistics on motor safety, “infrastructure wear and tear, and cost savings and efficiency gains for agriculture and the broader economy.” Still, Steenhoek noted that “many opponents of the legislation simply conveyed to members of Congress that 'bigger semis are more dangerous.' The inherent challenge for supporters of this amendment is that we needed to explain and persuade. Opponents, in many cases, simply needed to frighten and confuse.”

Steenhoek added that if the amendment would have become law, “the movement of soybeans, grain, and many other freight would have been more efficient. Farmer competitiveness would have increased. Unfortunately, a majority in Congress last night did not embrace that opportunity.”

The House is expected to continue debate Wednesday on HR 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. The bill, once passed and conferenced with a Senate bill, would end the series of 35 short-term extensions of highway reauthorizations. It's a six-year bill that would end up spending, on average, about $50.4 billion per year on national highway projects.

Specifically for highway projects, the funding would be about $285 billion from 2016 to 2021. Another roughly $18 billion over that time would go to a variety of other transportation programs.

The bill doesn't address the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which already has its own built-up shortfall of $52 billion and would increase the shortfall in the trust fund by roughly $6 billion. Congress has sought to avoid any kind of increase in fuel taxes in the bill.

The bill does streamline some of the environmental reviews and permits that can slow down highway projects. It also gives more options to local governments in allowing them to address their local issues. It also slightly boosts the percent of Surface Transportation Program funds going to local governments from 50{257ecae47c7fec349321aca28547072fa2160c1991a573be7695613338f0f130} to 55{257ecae47c7fec349321aca28547072fa2160c1991a573be7695613338f0f130}.



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