Senator Collins Introduces Bill To Help Truck Drivers Burdened By High Diesel Prices

Maine truck drivers show support for legislation at news conference in Augusta

In their continuing effort to address the high cost of energy and help ease the burden of high diesel prices on Maine’s trucking industry,  Senator Susan Collins recently introduced the Commercial Truck Fuel Savings Demonstration Act of 2008. This legislation would permit truck carrying up to 100,000 pounds to travel on federal highways whenever diesel prices are at or above $3.50 a gallon. Maine Senator Olympia Snowe is an orginal co-sponsor of the legislation.

“Our nation faces record high energy prices, affecting almost every aspect of daily life. The rapidly growing price of diesel is putting an increasing strain on our trucking industry, which is the cornerstone of our economy,” said Senator Collins, during a press conference outside the Maine Motor Transport Association’s headquarters in Augusta. “Current laws that force trucks carrying more than 80,000 pounds off the federal interstate system, and onto smaller, two-lane roads, simply do not make sense. This legislation would lessen the fuel cost burden on truckers by putting these trucks back on the federal interstate where they belong.”

Specifically, this legislation would:

• Create a 2-year pilot program that would permit trucks carrying up to 100,000 pounds to travel on the federal interstate system whenever diesel prices are at or above $3.50/gallon.

• Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to complete a report about safety and other concerns at the completion of the pilot program.

Under current law, trucks weighing 100,000 pounds are allowed to travel on the portion of I-95 designated as the Maine Turnpike, which runs from New Hampshire to Augusta, where the Turnpike designation ends, even though I-95 proceeds another 200 miles north to Houlton. At Augusta, however, heavy trucks must exit the modern four-lane, limited-access highway and are forced onto our secondary roads. Trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds are permitted on interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York as well as the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. The weight limit disparity on various segments of Maine’s Interstate Highway System is a significant impediment to commerce and increases wear-and-tear on our secondary roads.

Senators Collins believes permitting trucks to carry up to 100,000 pounds on all federal highways would also lessen the fuel cost burden on truckers in three ways:

• Raising the weight limit would allow trucking companies to put more cargo in each truck, thereby reducing the numbers of trucks needed to transport goods.

• For trucks carrying up to 100,000 pounds, they would no longer need to move off the main federal highways where trucks are limited at 80,000 pounds and take less direct routes on local roads requiring considerably more diesel fuel and extended periods of idling during each trip.

• Trucks traveling on the interstate system would save on fuel costs due to the vastly superior road geometrics of the interstate system as compared to the rural and urban state road systems.