The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act is the largest transportation overhaul in decades, according to the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A provision within the five-year bill would increase the truck weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds.
"What happens with trucks that are hauling heavy goods is they often reach the weight limit before the truck is full, so a lot of manufacturers are moving a lot more trucks around the country than they need to, because they can't fill them up," said John Runyan, executive director for the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, which supports upping the weight limit.
Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire (D-4th) is a member of the transportation and infrastructure committee and is opposed to the weight increase because of safety issues and wear and tear on already-stressed roads and bridges. But, Runyan said heavier trucks in states such as Wisconsin and in the United Kingdom have not had negative impacts.
"This would save money on pavement restoration costs because it puts less footprint for any one truck and it takes so many trucks off the road relative to what any one company needs, that it actually reduces pavement wear," said Runyan, "and that savings would actually exceed any increased cost of bridge maintenance, which is minimal."
While a portion of the bill would allow for longer vehicles, with one truck allowed to haul up to three trailers, the provision in question would not mean an increase in size of trucks. Rather, it would add wheels and an axle to the big rigs already on the roadways.
The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association opposes the move. Member Services Coordinator Tom Armstrong said longer and heavier trucks are more dangerous and would threaten Pennsylvania's roads and bridges. Congressman Altmire agreed, and said allowing heavier trucks puts residents at risk, "until we can come up with necessary funds to update and repair our transportation system in the commonwealth, it would be irresponsible to allow this change to take effect."
The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act is expected to be considered in the full House as early as Friday.