Update: The House rejected Rep. Reid Ribble's offering of the SAFE Trucking Act as an amendment to to the highway reauthorization bill, 187 to 236. The move and a similar vote on an amendment by Rep. Tom Rooney to address outdated trucking laws led the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to announce it is opposing the highway legislation.
More than 70 food and agriculture organizations are asking Congress to pass the Safe, Flexible and Efficient Trucking Act (H.R. 3488) as an amendment to the highway trust fund reauthorization legislation the House and Senate are expected to take up this week.
The groups – which range from the American Farm Bureau Federation to the National Farmers Union – sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to include the SAFE Trucking bill in the highway reauthorization measure.
“In the agriculture and food industries, our farms and businesses are growing and making products more resourcefully, but outdated federal transportation rules force trucks to leave the farm and our plants when they are partly empty,” the letter signed by the organizations said.
“By giving states the option to raise the federal gross vehicle weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds for trucks equipped with six axles rather than the typical five, the SAFE Trucking Act would safely modernize truck shipments on interstate highways by reducing the number of trucks needed to move our commodities and products through better utilization of existing capacity.”
In its most recent “Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study,” the U.S. Department of Transportation found that six-axle trucks can safely weigh up to 91,000 pounds—the configuration allowable under the SAFE Trucking Act—while yielding significant truckload reductions, pavement wear savings and environmental efficiency benefits without diverting significant freight from rail, the letter noted.
The U.S. DOT says the configuration is compliant with the federal bridge formula, and that wide use of the SAFE Trucking Act configuration would not cause any increase in one-time rehabilitation costs for Interstate bridges. Critically, the SAFE Trucking Act enables the U.S. DOT to require additional safety equipment for these vehicles before states can put these trucks to work.
“On behalf of America’s food and agriculture community, we urge you to support (Wisconsin Republican) Rep. Reid Ribble’s common-sense amendment because it is good for taxpayers, consumers, farmers, businesses, highway safety and the environment,” the groups said.
To view a copy of the groups’ letter, visit http://transportationproductivity.org/templates/files/food-and-ag-support-letter-for-safe-trucking-act.pdf