February 28, 2007 10:20 AM, EST

Editorial: Testing Longer, Heavier Trucks

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The new chairman of the pivotal House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. James Oberstar, said he would support a pilot program to test the effects that raising truck size and weight limits would have on the nation’s highways.Oberstar, who has been a critic of longer-combination vehicles for some time, signaled his interest in a pilot program during an interview with Transport Topics earlier this month. (Click here for related coverage.)The 17-term Democrat from Minnesota said that “we should have a pilot project where we really test the effect of heavier vehicles, longer vehicles on the road surface.”He said there also needed to be “an extensive discussion of locations where it would work, where congestion would be relieved” through the use of bigger trucks.He said that he believed any permanent plan to expand sizes and weights would likely require separate truck lanes and highways built to higher standards than are presently used.And such higher standards would surely result in higher fees for vehicles that use the reinforced roads, Oberstar said.While far from a ringing endorsement of longer or heavier trucks, Oberstar’s comments show a willingness to explore one of the methods many trucking executives believe is key to the industry meeting the shipping needs as the nation’s economy continues to grow.Coupled with his strong opposition to the wave of highway privatization that is sweeping the nation, Oberstar is giving the industry hope that the change in party leadership in Congress may not be the totally negative development for trucking that some have feared.Indeed, his comments on privatization are music to trucking’s ears.“Taking existing capacity and selling it off to some other user . . . isn’t going to expand capacity,” he said. “It isn’t going to move more trucks, more transit vehicles, more cars. You need capacity and you need more efficiency in the system, but I don’t see that the sale [of roads] does that.”Well said, and we look forward to Oberstar’s support in helping to stem the sale of the nation’s highway infrastructure to for-profit companies and in testing new truck configurations.This editorial appears in the Feb. 26 print edition of Transport Topics. Subscribe today.