This story appears in the Jan. 11 print edition of Transport Topics.
Pending expected approval from Gov. Butch Otter and the Idaho Legislature, truckers soon will be carrying loads up to 129,000 pounds. The increase would bring them in line with those from neighboring Nevada and Utah.
Idaho has been stuck at 105,500 pounds since the imposition of the longer combination vehicle freeze in 1991, but U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson inserted a provision governing the exemption in the omnibus funding bill that passed Congress and was signed by President Obama on Dec. 18.
“This change has long been sought by the state of Idaho because it will remove the competitive disadvantage . . . and will be a major generator of economic activity,” Simpson said. “By ensuring that Idaho’s vehicle laws match those of its neighboring states, Idaho can more efficiently play a larger role in transferring goods without impacting road safety.”
As Simpson noted, the higher weight limit will require trucks to have more axles, which actually will reduce the weight that each axle bears and likely will reduce the number of trucks on Idaho’s roads.
“This is a really big deal for us,” said Julie Pipal, CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association, one of about 80 organizations that has pushed for the increased weight limit. “It levels the playing field. We have a limited amount of drivers with expectations of moving [increasing amounts of] freight. When you can add more weight to a safer vehicle, it’s a no-brainer.”
But Pipal said that not every trucking company in Idaho will be quick to purchase new trailers, which she estimated will cost about $40,000 each.
“There won’t be an explosion of 129,000-pound vehicles on Idaho’s roads, but we’ll be able to create corridors of commerce to connect agriculture with processing and shipping,” said Pipal, who cited sugar beets, potatoes, grain and wood products as the goods mostly likely to comprise the increased truckloads in Idaho.
If the rise to 129,000 pounds goes through, only neighboring Montana (137,800), New York (143,000) and Michigan (164,000) will have higher weight limits than Idaho. Other states with 129,000-pound trailer limits are Arizona, Iowa and South Dakota.
American Trucking Associations supports lifting the freeze nationwide, said Darrin Roth, ATA’s vice president of highway policy.
The longer combination vehicle freeze set a nationwide weight limit of 80,000 pounds. States that were already above that limit were grandfathered in at their levels then. Twenty-four of the 50 states are at 80,000 pounds, Alaska, California and Hawaii are the only such Western states.
Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) has been leading an effort in Congress to raise the nationwide limit to 91,000 pounds.