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Bill seeks to increase max truck weight to 97K

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Over-the-highway trucks will be able to carry up to 97,000 pounds if the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009, which is currently in House subcommittee, passes. Under present law, trucks can carry up to 80,000 pounds.

A weight limit increase "will make trucks more productive" and also will be friendlier to the environment, says Clayton Boyce, a spokesman for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which supports the bill.

"Right now, most trucks can haul one ton (around) 150 miles on one gallon of diesel. A heavier load obviously would take a little more fuel, but if four trucks can carry the same weight that five trucks would carry," overall fuel consumption would be reduced considerably, he explains.

Current law limits the weight of five-axle trucks to 80,000 pounds. The bill calls for trucks operating above 80,000 pounds to add a sixth axle. "The extra axle adds two more brakes, preventing an increase in stopping distances, and avoids additional pavement damage," according to ATA officials.

"It is important to note there are no mandates in this bill. The highways on which these vehicles will operate will be chosen by individual states that choose to authorize their use. States will be empowered to route these vehicles in a way that minimizes additional costs."

If the bill passes and the weight limit is increased, some bridges "will have to be strengthened or replaced at an accelerated cycle in order to accommodate (the heavier) vehicles. Vehicles authorized to operate under this legislation will be required to pay an additional fee, which the ATA supports, and which will be dedicated to bridge investments in those states that authorize their use."

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act was introduced by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) this past March.

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