Bill Allows Heavier Trucks, But Not In Panhandle Trucks With More Weight Would Be Limited To 65 Mph On Freeways

TUESDAY, FEB. 17, 1998

Legislation to allow heavier trucks on certain Idaho roads, while lowering truck speed limits, cleared a House committee Monday after all North Idaho roads were removed from it.

“That’s the only way I’d go,” said Rep. Hilde Kellogg, R-Post Falls, who voted for amending the bill. “Our roads don’t hardly accommodate what we have now. We have roads with no shoulders, twisty turns. We have trucks dumped over constantly.”

Rep. Don Pischner, R-Coeur d’Alene, who proposed the amendment, said, “I wouldn’t support heavier truck weights in North Idaho. … I don’t think our road structure in the north, our weather, our geology, our ups and downs warrant heavier trucks.”

The legislation now is limited to a three-year pilot project on certain southeastern Idaho routes. It will allow some trucks, if they get local permits, to haul loads of up to 129,000 pounds, instead of the current limit of 105,500.

The 105,500-pound limit remains in effect on freeways, and only Congress can change it. Idaho Sen. Larry Craig sent the House Transportation and Defense Committee a letter saying if Idaho approves the legislation, he’ll be more successful in pushing Congress for higher freeway limits.

Under the bill, HB 623, trucks would be limited to 65 mph on freeways, rather than the 75 mph cars can travel on some stretches. That lower speed limit would apply to trucks with five or more axles and a gross weight of more than 26,000 pounds.

Advocates of the bill say new truck designs with additional axles allow heavier trucks to have the same or a lighter “footprint,” or pressure in pounds per square inch, on roads.

But total weight still is the issue when it comes to bridges, sponsor Rep. Jim Kempton, R-Albion, noted. He said over the three years the pilot project is in effect, the state will study its effect on roads and bridges.

Pischner said, “If this will help the southeastern folks, that’s great. I hope they remember us when we want some help on (Highway) 95.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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