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January 4, 2016 2:15 AM, EST

Rep. Ribble Still Optimistic on Raising Truck Weights

This story appears in the Jan. 4 print edition of Transport Topics.

The leading proponent in the House for increasing weight limits for tractor-trailers said he is hopeful a majority in Congress will back his effort in 2017.

“We’ve gotten better at articulating the message. We’ve gotten better at talking to members about it, and I would predict that the next round will be successful,” Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) told Transport Topics during an interview in late December.

Bloomberg News

Ribble sought to include a proposal in the five-year highway funding bill that would give states the authority to determine whether to increase weight limits to 91,000 pounds from 80,000 pounds, the current standard on interstate highways.

Before a November vote on his proposal, Ribble delivered a lengthy argument on the House floor, calling on colleagues to see the matter through a rural perspective.

Allowing heavier trucks on interstates is important to constituents back in Wisconsin, Ribble said.

“I’m from an area of the country where there’s not a lot of rail. We have very modest rail, and so the truck weight issue is important to us,” he said.

“The problem is, in the bulk of the states in this nation, they’re already on those roads where it’s much less safe for them to be. And I want to get them off of those [local] roads and back on the interstate, where it’s safe for them to be,” added Ribble, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Ultimately, 236 House members voted against his proposal. On Dec. 4, that highway bill would go on to be signed into law. The way Ribble saw it, the Obama administration “kind of made it clear that’s not something they’re really” looking to support. That persuaded enough members to oppose his effort.

“So my guess is that the discussion on truck weight and on size is likely to be postponed until 2017 or beyond,” he said.

Opponents of the proposal included senior Democrats representing densely populated districts in the Northeast, such as Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). Several transportation groups also indicated their opposition to heavier and longer trucks on interstates.

Earlier this year, the Truckload Carriers Association wrote to Ribble to express its opposition.

“The most readily apparent equipment modification necessary for 91,000-pound/6-axle configurations would be retrofitting a trailer with a third axle. However, in addition to the third axle on a trailer, carriers would also need to consider trailer reinforcements, kingpin upgrades and engine improvements in order to accommodate the increased weight,” the group said.