The audience at the Senate Transportation Committee this afternoon is a sea of lobbyists wearing green badges, as two bills regarding extra-heavy trucks are up for hearings. The first, SB 1064, would remove the expiration date from a pilot program that has allowed the heavier trucks – weighing up to 129,000 pounds, instead of the usual 105,000 pounds – on 35 designated southern Idaho routes, allowing the heavier trucks to run there permanently. The second, SB 1117, would allow use of the heavier trucks to expand statewide, wherever the local highway authority decides they should be allowed, based on road conditions.
Backers, including representatives of Amalgamated Sugar and U.S. Ecology, say the larger, typically triple-trailer trucks, with more axles, put fewer pounds of pressure on roads per square inch; they also save the companies money, because bigger loads mean fewer trucks.
Jim Riley, representing Idaho Forest Group, told the committee, “Properly configured higher capacity trucks can be operated on roads … without compromising public safety.” He said the result would be “more efficient trucking.”
Opponents of the bills include AAA of Idaho, which maintains that the heavier trucks can damage already stressed bridges, and that their longer lengths can endanger motorists on twisting roads like those in North Idaho.