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House Rejects Amendment Allowing Heavier Trucks

One of the nearly 270 amendments the House is considering in the $325 billion transportation reauthorization bill would allow individual states to allow heavier trucks to use highways. It was decisively defeated in a floor vote on Tuesday.
November 5, 2015, 6am PST | Irvin Dawid
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The bi-partisan amendment known as the Safe, Flexible, and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act from Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), David Rouzer (R-N.C.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), "would allow states to decide whether they want to increase a current limit of 80,000 pounds for cargo trucks to 91,000 pounds," writes Keith Laing of The Hill. "Proponents wanted to attach it to the highway bill in an attempt to end a bitter fight over truck weights that has raged for years in Washington

The amendment was rejected in a 187 to 236 floor vote. 74 Republicans joined all but 19 Democrats to oppose the measure. The prevailing issue turned out to be road safety, not economics of the trucking industry.

Trucking companies have pushed to increase the weight limit in several pieces of transportation-related legislation, arguing that it would increase the amount of cargo that can be shipped without requiring drivers to work extra hours. 

Safety advocates have sought to block the increase, arguing that heavier loads would make trucks more likely to crash. They applauded lawmakers for rejecting the highway bill amendment on Tuesday evening, calling the vote against the proposal "a resounding rejection of bogus arguments by the trucking and shipping industry that heavier trucks would be safer trucks.

The Ribble amendment is one of nearly 270 amendments the House is considering, with a completion date set for Thursday, Nov. 5.

Paying for Reauthorization

Among the many amendments is a 15-cent increase in the gas tax by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), which would help pay for the bill, H.R. 22, the Drive Act. However, it's unlikely an increase in the gas tax would pass.

At a House Rules Committee meeting Monday night, Bill Shuster, R-Pa., House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, "said the Senate’s highway plan is funded for only three of its six years," writes David Lawder for Reuters. "He said Republicans hope to work out longer-term sources of money for infrastructure, including international tax changes, to pay for the last three years."

Congress is up against a Nov. 20 deadline to pass the bill if it doesn't want to pass a 36th transportation spending extension.

Readers can track amendments that Transportation for America is following here.

Hat tip to Eugene Wilson, Sierra Club Transportation Forum.

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Published on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 in The Hill
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