A bipartisan amendment offered by U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta (R, PA-11) and Jerry Costello (D, IL-12) during markup of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 7) to maintain current truck size and weight limits while conducting a three-year study of the potential local and state costs such an increase might bring was passed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act is a five-year, $260 billion bill that will put people of the 11th District and the United States back to work rebuilding our nation's crumbling highways and bridges.
Rep. Barletta was concerned that giving states the option to increase truck size and weights, as H.R. 7 did before the amendment passed, would be a de facto national increase. There are significant safety and cost implications of such changes, as larger and heavier trucks are involved in an outsized percentage of fatal traffic accidents and cause greater damage to roads and bridges while underpaying for the damage caused. The study authorized by the Barletta/Costello amendment will examine these and other potential costs and changes to the national transportation system incurred by increasing truck sizes and weights.
"All trips begin and end on local roads. The cost of fixing these roads is in the hands of local taxpayers. Heavier trucks will damage local roads, which are not built to handle the extra weight. Local roads will become potholed, buckled, and broken much more quickly. They will need to be repaired and replaced sooner, and the cost for that will fall squarely on local governments and local taxpayers," Rep. Barletta said.
Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Barletta received an e-mail from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). That e-mail reads, in part: "The Commonwealth cannot accommodate larger and heavier trucks on its interstate system at this time. If we are going to move in this direction, PennDOT must be given an opportunity to evaluate major trucking routes, identify the necessary improvements and have funding in place to make them."
"This e-mail states that Pennsylvania's highways will not be able to handle the increased truck weight allowed by this bill. This study is absolutely needed before such a major change is allowed," Rep. Barletta said. "Pennsylvania has 5,000 structurally deficient bridges. Our neighboring state of Ohio has 4,000 structurally deficient bridges. Adding 17,000 pounds to our trucks will not make our bridges safer in Pennsylvania, or in Ohio, or in the hills of Tennessee, or on a winter road in Minnesota."
Public opinion polls for years have consistently shown overwhelming opposition to increasing truck sizes and weights. An April 2011 Lake Research Partners poll found 74 percent of Americans oppose heavier trucks.
The Barletta/Costello amendment was supported by numerous safety and law enforcement groups, including Advocates for Highway Safety, the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, the National Troopers Coalition, the National Sheriffs' Association, and the National Association of Police Organizations.