No Heavy Metal

House panel drops truck load increase in highway bill

By Elijah Herington Scripps Howard Foundation Wire
WASHINGTON The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted Thursday to send a new highway bill to the House floor but it will be without a controversial provision granting tractor-trailers an added 21 percent weight allowance.

After a lengthy debate crossing both sides of the aisle, an amendment dropping the weight change was adopted on a bipartisan 33-22 vote.

The amendment also puts in place legislation that allows up to three years of study on the safety and utility of larger tractor-trailers.

Without the amendment, states would have been given the option of allowing freight companies to raise weight limits on trucks from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds and, in rare cases, 126,000 pounds, and allow trucks to pull three trailers instead of two.

A fellow advocate of the amendment, Rep. Jerry F. Costello, D-Ill., agreed there were too many possible hazards that need analysis.

And although Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., introduced the five-year highway bill Tuesday, he backed the motion to cut the truck-weight provision.

Duncan spokesman, Patrick Newton, said after the vote that weight allowance "section of the bill, he was always uneasy with." Safety was one of Duncan's utmost concerns, Newton said.

Perhaps Lenoir City Police Chief Don White's visit Wednesday helped sway Duncan's vote. White traveled to Washington to convince Duncan and other members of Tennessee's congressional delegation to remove the sections allowing the weight increases.

"I think they heard our message," White said in a telephone interview late Thursday. "I was very pleased that they chose to go that direction."