The new Highway Bill, signed into law on July 6, did not enact the comprehensive truck weight reform to liberalize Interstate access that FRA and our allies advocated, since maneuvers by our opponents resulted in a “study” of potential impacts being substituted. However, thanks to the work of Congressional supporters on the conference committee, the Highway Bill does ensure that this “study” of truck weight impacts is to proceed in a timely manner. Specifically, it was to begin no later than August 19, 2012, and report its findings within two years, or by August 19, 2014, which is several weeks before the Highway Bill expires, on September 30, 2014. Thus, the statute stipulates that the study’s report be available during the next reauthorization process.
On August 1, two of Congress’s strongest truck-weight reform advocates, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisconsin) wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, reminding him of the importance of observing the statutory timeline: “The study is to commence no later than 45 days following the bill’s enactment and a report must be submitted to Congress within 2 years of the start of the study. The intent is to better inform Congress of the changes needed to existing truck weight limits so that modernization can be made in the next highway authorization. Given that MAP-21 [the Highway Bill] expires 2 years and 3 months after its date of enactment, it is imperative that the Department of Transportation (DOT) adhere to, or improve upon, this timeline.”
The Congressmen express confidence in DOT’s ability to assess the safety of the 97,000-pound/6-axle configuration, in view of the many jurisdictions in which that configuration is already in use and the dozens of studies already published on the topic.
For background, visit http://www.forestresources.org/policy-priorities.html#uncompetitive.