The Idaho Transportation Department is weighing requests to allow trucks that weigh up to 129,000 pounds on more non-interstate, state-maintained highways.
Starting with a pilot project in 2003, the state has been allowing trucks weighing up to 129,000 to use specified routes. The standard weight limit for trucks is 105,000 pounds.
But the Idaho Trucking Association and individual companies have complained that Idaho’s limits are stricter than those in other states, and that the weight limits force them to take more trips, costing them money.
Last year, the Legislature passed a law allowing the ITD to expand the number of routes on state roads open to trucks that exceed the 105,000 weight limit. This year, the Legislature approved transportation department rules that spelled out the process to request new routes for 129,000-pound trucks.
Two companies have submitted requests to carry the increased weight on additional highways in Idaho.
Baker Trucking Company in Grangeville and Amalgamated Sugar both asked for permission for heavier weight allowances on specified routes. Amalgamated Sugar said in its request that a ten-year pilot program that started in 2003 had supported the heavier loads, “resulting in less trucks, less wear on roads and improved safety.”
According to paperwork filed with ITD, Amalgated Sugar would benefit from a savings of nearly $200,000 if its request were granted.
ITD has completed evaluations on almost all the requested routes and is reviewing the requests. The review includes hearings and a public comment period. The department will likely make a decision on approving or not approving two of the routes, Idaho 77 and Idaho 25, at its monthly meeting in July, said ITD spokesman Adam Rush. It will make a decision on approving two other routes, U.S. 12 and U.S. 95, at its meeting in August.
Congress has also been discussing the issue of heavy trucks, and on June 10 a Fiscal Year 2015 transportation appropriations bill that passed the U.S. House contained language increasing truck weights on Idaho interstate highways to 129,000, said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.
The increase “puts Idaho in line with neighboring states and with Idaho’s state highway system, which already allows 129,000 pound trucks,” Simpson said.
A ten-year pilot study in Idaho found the weight increase would have no significant impact on roadway safety or on the structural soundness of Idaho’s bridges or pavement, Simpson’s office said. “The increase will actually ease the impact on infrastructure because heavier trucks use more axels and more evenly distribute weight than conventional trucks. It would also mean fewer trips would be required to move the same amount of freight, leading to fewer trucks on the road.”
But Rush said even if the bill passes the Senate and becomes law, businesses will still need to submit requests to ITD to allow trucks to travel up to 129,000 pounds on state roads.
“Unless there was a change in Idaho code, the process will remain that includes a route application, 30-day comment period and public hearing,” Rush said.
The process won’t end this summer, said Julie Pipal, the president and CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association.
“This is really going to be on a case-by-case basis,” said Pipal.”The trucking industry has not done a very good job of articulating how safe those vehicles are. We’re talking professional drivers. We hope these hearings are an opportunity to do that.”