On February 18, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) re-introduced their Safe & Efficient Transportation Act of 2011 (SETA) as HR 763—essentially the same bill they co-sponsored in the last congress. Following a joint Fly-In hosted by the Coalition for Transportation Productivity and the Agriculture and Forestry Transportation Reform Coalition in early March, the new bill quickly gathered 21 bipartisan co-sponsors—with a strong showing from House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee members—and support continues to grow. FRA’s March 17 Fly-In, in which Truck Weight Reform was a key issue, placed further force behind advancing this important reform in Surface Transportation Reauthorization discussions. As previously reported, the Pulp & Paperworkers Resource Council also placed Truck Weight Reform toward the top of its agenda at its own Fly-In in early February, asserting, “transport is a significant and increasing component of the ultimate product cost.”
Negotiations are now concluding with respect to the introduction of a Senate companion bill to HR 763; we anticipate an announcement within days.
At a March 10 hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) questioned Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the possibility of resolving the Truck Weight Reform issue by means of the system of “waivers” which, she claimed, have already provided special exceptions for truck-weight limits in 31 states. She asked the Secretary what latitude the Department has to give every state “the ability to opt for higher truck weights, so we can streamline this across the country.” Secretary LaHood seemed sympathetic, suggested that since federal DOT has the ability “to look at it from the big view, with another safety optic,” the Department would be in a position to help, although he concluded by suggesting, “I think you can address that through a transportation bill.” This interesting but ambiguous exchange is preserved on a video posted on Sen. Snowe’s web site at this link. The relevant section begins at the 2:30-minute mark.